AUSTRALIA’S RACING AND BREEDING MAGAZINE
V O L . 2 N O.1 S U M M E R 2 0 0 9 $ 6 .9 5
INC .GS T
THE BEGG BLOODLINES Racing is a family affair for the All Silent team
THE AMAZING STORY OF TALIA MAOR
A young rider with an army background
NEW WAVE The ’Bool’s young guns add depth to the training ranks
PORTRAIT OF A CHAMPION: Putting Group 1 winners in the frame
Premier Horsepower Australia’s fastest growing sale with results that extend even further. Top world raters Australian Horse of the Year Weekend Hussler (mile) and Hong Kong Champion Sacred Kingdom (sprint); a South African classic winner Le Drakkar (Cape Guineas G1); a Melbourne Spring Carnival G1 WFA winner Littorio as well as this season’s most impressive two-year-old stakes winner Rostova. Get revved up for Melbourne in March and claim pole position with a Premier Graduate.
2009 MELBOURNE PREMIER YEARLING SALE 1, 2, 3 & 4 March Oaklands, Melbourne
NEWMARKET SYDNEY PO Box 477, Randwick NSW 2031 Ph: +612 9399 7999 Fax: +612 9398 5547
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PUBLISHED BY: The Slattery Media Group MANAGING EDITOR: Geoff Slattery EDITOR: Stephen Howell CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Danny Power
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PRODUCTION EDITOR: Howard Kotton ART DIRECTOR: Andrew Hutchison DESIGNERS: Joanne Mouradian,
4 IS RACING UP TO
16 KING SIZE
48 SCHOOL’S IN
THE CHALLENGE? Editorial by Stephen Howell.
It’s all about the horse for Hong Kong’s champion trainer, writes Stephen Howell.
A young jockey’s education covers more than riding. Stephen Howell sits in on apprentices’ lessons.
18 NEW WAVE
A CHAMPION The Thoroughbred puts turf greats in the frame.
AT THE ’BOOL Surf and turf are a winning mix for a group of young trainers, reports Matt Stewart.
9 IN THE CLUB The latest on The Thoroughbred Magazine Club’s exciting Bel Esprit ﬁlly.
12 THE BEGG BLOODLINES Working with racehorses has been the Begg family’s life for many years. Craig Young ﬁnds the passion still burns.
26 FROM SOLDIER TO JOCKEY Talia Maor carried a gun, now she carries a whip, writes Stephen Moran.
32 THE MAJOR AND THE MITCHELLS Yarraman Park’s yearlings have a special stamp. Danny Power tells why.
38 THE COLT RESULT
A LEAP OF FAITH Fallen steeplechaser Toulouse Lautrec is being taught to jump again, writes Stephen Howell.
The Thoroughbred watched the mare Tenets being served by Bel Esprit; now we show you the foal.
40 THE GATEMEN They’re racing, but, reports Peter Ryan, there’s hard and dangerous work before the jump.
46 ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME Ben Casanelia talks with an owner who has gone along for the ride with her gift horse.
Melanie Tanusetiawan PRODUCTION: Troy Davis, Stephen Lording PUBLICATIONS MANAGER:
Alison Hurbert-Burns PUBLICATIONS COORDINATOR:
54 THE ROMANCE
Penny McVey BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (RACING):
OF THE TURF Trainer Chris Waller and his model wife Stephanie have not looked back since moving to Sydney from New Zealand, writes Christian Nicolussi.
Tanya Fullarton, email@example.com ADVERTISING SALES: Rebecca Alsop,
firstname.lastname@example.org MARKETING MANAGER: Dianne Biviano,
email@example.com CONTRIBUTORS: Emma Berry, Ben Casanelia,
Bruno Cannatelli, Ben Collins, Martin King, Matthew Stewart, Stephen Moran, Christian Nicolussi, Peter Ryan, Craig Young.
58 PHAR LAP’S KENTUCKY CONNECTION Danny Power traces all the sons and daughters of Entreaty, Phar Lap’s dam.
The Slattery Media Group Ph: (03) 9627 2600, Visit slatterymedia.com/images SUBSCRIPTION ENQUIRIES:
64 IMPORTING A
firstname.lastname@example.org All correspondence to the editor, The Thoroughbred. AFL House, 140 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, Vic 3008, ph (03) 9627 2600
CUP CANDIDATE Owners and trainers continue to look far and wide for stayers. Emma Berry watched them bidding.
Contributions welcome, visit thethoroughbred.com.au The Thoroughbred is published quarterly. Next edition, Autumn 2009
68 IN THE BLACK Andrew Black devised Betfair, the sports betting exchange. He shares his story with Ben Collins.
76 THE FIXER Peter Morgan is making a splash with injured horses. Danny Power watched them take to the water-walker.
80 AUSSIES ABROAD Melbourne Cup-winning trainer David Hall is happy in Hong Kong, reports Stephen Howell.
82 VOICE OF REASON Graham Loch applies a commonsense approach to his chief steward role.
Geoff Slattery is the chief executive ofﬁcer of the Slattery Media Group and managing editor of The Thoroughbred. PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILLSON (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
8 PORTRAIT OF
Beck Haskins PHOTO EDITORS: Natalie Boccassini,
Stephen Howell is the editor of The Thoroughbred. Danny Power is the editor of Racing In Australia and a senior staff writer for The Slattery Media Group. Craig Young is a racing writer on The Sydney Morning Herald. Matthew Stewart is a senior racing writer with the Herald Sun and a host on radio Sport 927. Stephen Moran is the editor of Best Bets, host of the Racing Central program on radio Sport 927 and co-host on TVN. Ben Casanelia is a freelance journalist. Peter Ryan is a senior staff writer for The Slattery Media Group. He has a keen interest in racing. Christian Nicolussi is a racing writer on the Daily Telegraph in Sydney. Emma Berry is an Australian writer living in England. Ben Collins is a senior staff writer for The Slattery Media Group, and the author of numerous books. ON THE COVER: Jason Wallace rides four-year-old mare Whosh for trainer Patrick Ryan at Killarney Beach, near Port Fairy. Ryan is one of the young guns making the most of surf and turf in the Warrnambool region.
VICTORIA’S PREMIER PRETRAINING, REHABILITATION & SPELLING CENTRE www.rockmount.com.au Damian Murphy - Manager
PHOTO BY LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
Is racing up to the challenge? It is difﬁcult to build up a head of steam with obstacles around every turn, writes STEPHEN HOWELL
ustralian racing has been reinventing itself since the ﬁrst galloping meeting was held at Hyde Park in Sydney in 1810. It has thrived with the good times, survived by cutting its cloth in the bad times. The pace of the sport’s evolution has followed not just changes in sporting fashion, but changes imposed by society, and – as today – from the fallout from the world economy. In computer/ technological times, change is happening more quickly than ever and adaptation casts a longer shadow than ever in a shrinking world. No longer is it feasible – or acceptable – to move in isolation, and racing, like much of society, can struggle with that, especially when many of its decision-makers are of a previous generation. Among the key issues of 2009, as we come out of one big year in racing and go into another are … Wagering: the betting dollar has always ruled, even more so now when it is referred to as turnover and determines programming, and ultimately funding. Rationalisation: leadership in this area is exempliﬁed in Western Australia, with Racing and Wagering WA (RWWA),
4 THE THOROUGHBRED
managing all codes more than adequately. Established in 2003, RWWA’s charter could well apply nationally: “RWWA’s charter… is to foster development, promote the welfare and ensure the integrity of metropolitan and country thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing in the interests of the long-term viability of the racing industry in Western Australia (WA).” Racing Victoria jumped on the model with its ‘Racing to 2020’ vision launched late in 2008. RVL’s chief executive Rob Hines said at the launch of 2020 that the business plan was a framework that needed support from industry participants – just how hard it can be to get that support is shown by the reaction from those across the state who believe their clubs or jobs or inﬂuence could be jeopardised by imposed change. However, a positive with the announcement was Hines looking further than the 2020 document in raising, again, the importance of an AFL-type independent commission to run racing in Australia. Clearly, this would be one way around the interests and jealousies that make a uniﬁed voice almost impossible to achieve under the present fragmented system. Some moves have been made. In Victoria, the two biggest city clubs (the Victoria Racing Club and the Melbourne Racing
THEY’RE OFF: Racing paints a healthy picture in the Spring Carnival, but action is needed to ensure the industry thrives all year.
Club) have established (in part) reciprocal rights for members, and the innovative Moonee Valley Racing Club has cut staff in handing work to the ruling body, RVL. In Queensland, the oft-warring neighbours, the Brisbane Turf Club and the Queensland Turf Club, have voted to become one, and Queensland Racing’s chairman, Bob Bentley, is at the forefront of a push to give the Australian Racing Board more say in running the industry. Importantly, divided Sydney appears to be moving towards club unity – late in January the NSW Racing Minister Kevin Greene met Racing NSW’s chief executive Peter V’landys and the chief executives and chairmen of the two clubs, the Australian Jockey Club and the Sydney Turf Club. Greene told the Sydney media that the talks about having one club were positive and had brought an in-principle agreement to pursue the matter. How long it is ‘all talk, no action’ remains to be seen. For now, the plan is to set terms for an independent feasibility study – subject, of course, to the approval of each club’s board. Earlier, the Sydney decisionmakers, with help from the State Government’s Events NSW, made
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autumn carnival promotion and participation easier by unhitching their wagons from Easter Saturday as AJC Australian Derby day. Setting their race dates to speciﬁc Saturdays, rather than follow Easter, for the next few years is a positive move, because it reduces the impact (generally negative) on other clubs, and major races, be they in NSW, the other states or New Zealand. So, for this autumn and for at least three/four years after that, Australian racing’s various ruling bodies – and owners and trainers – can work to a calendar that has stable and sensible shape. Owners of two-year-olds, as an obvious example, can plan around a set gap between Melbourne’s Blue Diamond (late February) and Sydney’s Golden Slipper (the start of April). We can only hope that these set dates are embraced by all, so their success can nudge the individual elements, in and outside NSW, towards an extended uniﬁed approach that is desperately needed. Wagering, a hot topic in the long lead-up to 2012, when TABCorp’s Victorian monopoly ends, has become even hotter with the “explosion” of advertising from corporate bookmakers after legal restrictions were removed.
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Samantha Miss winning the Group 1 Flight Stakes at Randwick
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The corporate bookmakers are so much more visible than before with advertising seemingly everywhere, with the word ‘bet’ often accompanied by the lure ‘free’. They can generally offer more to punters than TABCorp and UniTAB, but that they offer less to the industry is of concern and is divisive: NSW has chosen to tax the corporates on turnover, a more proﬁtable route but a legal mineﬁeld; Victoria has gone for tax on proﬁt – less return but comfortably legally. The problem is Australian governance is so fragmented in so many arenas that any racing solution is almost certain to involve input from outside racing – ie, government. The pessimists say that if money talks, in this tough economic climate there are more important things for governments to listen to; the optimists say that if lean and mean is the way to go, there is no better time to push harder for a national approach. The change in funding possible when TABCorp’s monopoly totalisator licence in Victoria runs out in 2012, accelerates the push to get the industry’s house in order. Although the Victorian Government, through Racing Minister Rob Hulls, has guaranteed that racing will be no worse off after the licensing change, we are yet to ﬁnd out how this claim will be substantiated.
10 THINGS WE’D LIKE TO SEE IN RACING BY 2012 A national ruling body with teeth: say an independent Commission, that oversees state bodies that conform to a national charter, while running city and country racing in their states. Each capital city is a one-club town. A national pari-mutuel (tote) operator with privileges such as special multiple/exotic bets to ensure the biggest possible pool, and to compensate for racing’s bigger take from it. This, in turn, helps fund the industry, and exists with corporate bookmakers, whose lesser compensation to racing generally is subsidised by speciﬁc sponsorship deals.
The worldwide economic crisis will affect prizemoney and sponsorship, so cutting duplication is a positive and essential start. A welter of other issues show it is no more than that. They include coping with changing weather patterns and the associated track problems, from watering and raceday ratings, to the introduction of all-weather tracks; reducing the number of training centres while making those that remain more able to cope with great numbers of horses and trainers; and coping with the ever-increasing competition in the
A national insurance scheme for jockeys, who are licensed, trained (as apprentices) and promoted (as apprentices and jockeys from minor country to major country to city to carnival meetings) under an Australia-wide program. The insurance and training schemes extended to track riders and stablehands, and to ensure post-racing support for those no longer able to participate. Building the breedingracing link through a national owners/breeders bonus scheme in races, with a bigger payout for staying races, especially for three-year-olds. A uniform track rating system that is guaranteed to be accurate. Plastic railing on all race and work tracks.
entertainment business that has seen night racing emerge as a viable alternative on the ‘boutique’ tracks, Moonee Valley and Canterbury. Whether ‘the night show’ will take off at Geelong and Cranbourne – tracks earmarked by RVL for future night racing – remains to be seen. While looking in, administrators are looking out to a shrinking world as Australia attracts, and is attracted by, other racing jurisdictions in both hemispheres. The view is positive. Sydney, with Events NSW support, will try to lure international travellers in the
Group 1 or 2 Cups over 3200m to be reinstated in each state – eventually add Tasmania, too – to build on point No. 5 and to safeguard Australia’s stayers with the growing (and welcome) international involvement in the iconic Melbourne Cup. And fewer Group 1 races overall – surely 65 is too many. The establishment of an April- September jumps racing circuit on suitable tracks across Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Develop the success of night racing at Moonee Valley (Melbourne), Canterbury (Sydney) and Toowoomba (Queensland), throw in Morphettville (Adelaide) and add other tracks across the country with twilight racing in holiday towns.
autumn, but it is Melbourne in spring that will remain their focus. The growing and continued interest of world powers Godolphin and Coolmore and world respected Dermot Weld and Luca Cumani in the Melbourne Cup and the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival is icing on Australia’s racing cake. The cake’s ingredients are in the pot – what matters is how racing mixes them with key matters such as health and safety (for humans and horses) and economic management of the increasingly hard-to-get dollar.
THINKING OF SELLING YOUR HORSE? Contact Greg Zarra Ofﬁce: 1st Floor, 328 Clarendon St, South Melbourne, VIC 3205 Mobile: +61 413 865 962 6 THE THOROUGHBRED
Phone: +61 3 9690 0918 Fax: +61 3 9690 0989 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.aaba.asia
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Portrait Of A .com.au
ALL THE GOOD
Launching a photographic collection to honour the Champions of the turf To purchase your work of art visit portraitofachampion.com.au au or call (03) 9627 2600
Each framed image, produced on ďŹ ne art photographic paper, will measure 995mm x 775mm
Subscribers of receive a 10% discount, cour tesy of The Thoroughb red Magazine Club
IN THE FRAME
Portrait of a Champion The Melbourne Cup winner Viewed is part of an exciting photographic series that puts racing’s greats in classic conformation pose.
he Thoroughbred is proud to launch a brave new photographic initiative – it is our intention to create an everlasting archive of notable racehorses, photographed in the classic conformation pose you can see on these pages (the model above is the 2008 Melbourne Cup winner, Viewed). The concept came to us while searching for photographs of some of the greats of the 1930s and 1940s – horses such as Amounis, Peter Pan, Bernborough and the like; there are many photos of these horses in race ﬁnishes, but none showing the truth of their conformation, and their beauty as animals, not just highly competitive racehorses.
8 THE THOROUGHBRED
To add a sense of surrealism to the concept, we have also taken the model from yards – in many cases with distractions in the background/foreground – and utilising modern digital technology, have placed the champions of their day in new, evocative backgrounds. Viewed, shot while spelling at Think Big Stud, near Bowral NSW, has been positioned, via Photoshop, in the mounting yard at Flemington. The amazing Takeover Target (top right), shot against a wire fence in Romsey, is now gloriously displayed in the Australian outback; Maldivian (bottom right), photographed
at his yard at Flemington, is now proudly in a ﬁeld adorned with roses. Others in the initial set include Caulﬁeld Cup winner All The Good (middle right), Victoria Derby winner Rebel Raider, VRC Oaks winner Samantha Miss, Sandown Classic winner Zipping and 2007 Melbourne Cup winner Efﬁcient. As soon as a notable winner is identiﬁed, we’re out there shooting, while he or she is at the peak of ﬁtness, and athleticism. The concept – entitled Portrait Of A Champion – will allow future generations up close and personal views of the champions of their day, online at
portraitofachampion.com.au. We are also marketing editions of these beautiful prints – framed to museum standards, and printed on the best quality photographic paper. Each ﬁnished frame will be of the dimensions 995mm x 775mm, and delivered in a protective package. Subscribers to The Thoroughbred magazine – who are automatically members of The Thoroughbred Magazine Club (details right) will receive a discount off the retail price of these portraits, just another beneﬁt of subscription to the magazine. The Portrait Of A Champion concept is not limited to the unquestioned champions of the turf – your champion may have won only a 1200m class 1 at
Join the Club The Thoroughbred Magazine Club takes you into the exciting world of horse ownership – without the bills – with a promising Bel Esprit ﬁlly.
TAKEOVER TARGET: Australia’s fairytale sprinter, a Group 1 winner at home and abroad.
ALL THE GOOD: Godolphin’s stunning winner of the 2008 Caulﬁeld Cup.
MALDIVIAN: the son of Zabeel took control from the front in winning the 2008 Cox Plate.
Kerang, or a 0-64 at Kalgoorlie, but the thrill and the memory can be just as great as winning a Group 1 at Flemington. We can arrange for the same photographic, print and framing standards for your champion as well: full details are available at portraitofachampion.com.au. – GEOFF SLATTERY
All subscribers – existing and new – of The Thoroughbred magazine are automatically members of The Thoroughbred Magazine Club. The Thoroughbred magazine was created to give a new insight into the world of thoroughbred racing – providing the stories behind the stories, rather than a set of once-over-lightly advertorials, and proﬁles without detail. It was a natural extension of that philosophy that we should involve our readers in a club that takes all our subscribers into the exciting and challenging world of racehorse ownership – without the bills. The Thoroughbred Magazine Club has leased a ﬁlly from Eliza Park, a magniﬁcent 2YO by Bel Esprit from Song Of The Sun, and subscribers to the magazine will be provided with complete information about her progress, the inside oil, from the Robbie Grifﬁths stable. If you’re not a subscriber, it’s as easy as logging on to thethoroughbred.com.au, and taking out a $25 subscription (four issues of the magazine, plus membership of The Thoroughbred Magazine Club). Existing subscribers will have received their membership card, and login details with this edition of the magazine; new subscribers will receive their membership details as soon as they subscribe. The exciting news is that our ﬁlly has returned to pre-training – after spelling – at Eliza Park, near Romsey. The leggy three-year-old was very impressive in the spring in her ﬁrst preparation for Grifﬁths at Cranbourne. “She showed me a lot of zip when I asked her to stride along before she went for a spell. She surprised me, because she ran 600m in 36 seconds, which is slick time, especially as she was only broken-in at the end of the winter,” Grifﬁths said. The Bel Esprit ﬁlly spelled for eight weeks under the care of Sue Ellis,
SHAPING UP: The Bel Esprit ﬁ lly
who was delighted by the way the ﬁlly developed. “She has matured in her spell, and put on condition. Importantly, when we put the saddle on her (on January 19), she was right back into the swing,” Ellis said. Grifﬁths said the ﬁlly will be asked to do a “four to six weeks pre-train” under Ellis before returning to Cranbourne. “Once she is with me, it will take around six weeks to get her to the trials.” The pedigree of our ﬁlly has been boosted by a terriﬁc run of success by progeny of Bel Esprit in the past month. If you want to catch up with all the news about this talented stallion, there are two wonderful references you can access … Bel Esprit’s part-owner Brian Donohue has developed the Bel Esprit Owners’ Club blog (belesprit2008.blogspot.com), which lists all the stallion’s winners for this season. And, of course, Eliza Park Stud, which stands the son of Royal Academy, keeps an up-to-date proﬁle on Bel Esprit on its website (elizapark.com.au), and also all the latest news on Bel Esprit’s progeny. Eliza Park also stands the Bel Esprit ﬁlly’s close relation Magnus (by Flying Spur), whose dam Scandinavia (Snippets-Song Of Norway) is a halfsister to the ﬁlly’s dam, Song Of The Sun (Desert Sun-Song Of Norway). The Thoroughbred Magazine Club members can keep abreast of how the ﬁlly is performing in her preparation by going to our website, thethoroughbred.com.au/club – soon to be available only via login – and can stay tuned for news about the selection of her name. – DANNY POWER THE THOROUGHBRED 9
Back to school
Leap of faith for a fallen hero After Grand National disappointment, Chris Hyland looks off track to lift super quick steeplechaser Toulouse Lautrec to new heights next jumping season. WORDS STEPHEN HOWELL PHOTOS MICHAEL WILLSON, BRUNO CANNATELLI
blowy day makes a training session in one of the biggest sandpits in South Cranbourne hard work, for horse and rider. Racehorse Toulouse Lautrec and equestrienne Casey Mattson take it in their stride, Toulouse with gentle guidance from his rider. It is Casey’s dad Don Mattson and the horse’s trainer Chris Hyland who wipe the sand, stingingly swirling from the roughly 50-metre by 30-metre yard on the Mattson property, from their eyes. But they get on with putting up the jumps rails and supports when a gust blows them over. And when Toulouse knocks them down. It is character building, for all. Especially Toulouse Lautrec (Gr g 8, Danewin-Dancing Colour, by Varick (USA)). Hyland and the Mattsons are building the gelding’s conﬁdence and skill at the game that, ultimately, let him down last winter – after relying on ﬂat speed to get through four steeplechase races for four wins, he tumbled over a jump in the ﬁfth and fell short of his ﬁnal goal – of winning the Grand National Steeplechase over 3450m at Flemington last July. Disappointed, but not deterred, Cranbourne-based Hyland, not frightened to look outside the square, went to those whose sport is to jump more than to run so
that Toulouse Lautrec would have a better chance of going all the way this winter jumps season. Why not get a hand from a mate who had helped him before with jumpers Liquid Lunch and Spurious? (The success, Liquid Lunch, won the 2005 Grand National Steeplechase; the failure, Spurious, went 0-5 over hurdles.) And why not use the developing skills of the mate’s 16-yearold daughter, a member of the Australian junior riding squad. The Thoroughbred watched Toulouse Lautrec’s 10th lesson (Hyland’s rough count) at the Mattson ‘school of safer jumping’. After Casey walked, trotted and cantered him to warm up, she had him jump the same fence 15 times (at different heights). Up close, the one baulk (when he dislodged the ﬁrst, lower bar on the fence) and the one near fall (when he went down on his nose as he stumbled on landing) were graphic evidence of the danger of jumping a thoroughbred who stands 17 hands. There was no harm done other than losing a bit of skin when Toulouse’s hoof collected his nose as he buried it in the sand on the stumble. Each time the giant grey, wearing leather guards on his shins, was happy for Casey to line him up for another try after the fence had been reassembled, and most times after a touch or knock of the bar he cleared it with many centimetres to spare at his
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next attempt. Each time Hyland praised the effort with a loud and encouraging “good boy”. The bar was raised from under a metre to 1.3 metres (the modular steeples used in races are almost as high, but the top third is a brush section that horses can skim through) before coming down a notch for the last couple of jumps – Don Mattson had set up the jump just two wo strides after a bar on the ground that the horse had to step over, and Hyland explained that thee idea was to sacriﬁce speed d for safety. “When he used to jump he would put one leg in front of the other; and the same with his hind legs,” the he trainer said. “What you’re trying to get him to do is lift ft both front legs up at the same me time and, when his hind legs gs are coming through, lift them em up and clear the jump, too.”” Hyland said there was noo guarantee the lessons would ld improve Toulouse Lautrec’ss jumping, but they were a step tep in the right direction, as well ell as a diversion from the usual track work that can turn old geldings off racing. Hyland and Don Mattson admitted at lesson’s end that they probably pushed to new heights too soon, but they wanted to get in a good session for The Thoroughbred. “He can jump all
TOULOUSE LAUTREC LAUTREC: Brushing B hi through a race fence for top jockey Rod Durden last winter and (main photo) soaring to new heights in a sandy yard for equestrienne Casey Mattson.
right, he’s just got to show a bit more respect for them,” Mattson said. Toulouse Lautrec had almost no respect for the racing obstacles last season – the ‘upturned straw brooms’ allowed horses to brush through them rather than steady and measure their leaps, prompting angst in the industry and anger from those outside as several horses died after highspeed crashes. The jumps have been modiﬁed for this season, after a lengthy assessment of the pros and cons of the jumping business. “We just didn’t want to come into this season and say, ‘Oh yeah, everything’s ﬁne, he’s winning anyway’,” Hyland said. “As I said to the owner (Grahame Mapp, who has Hobartville Stud on the Hawkesbury in NSW), I want to strive for him to be perfect.
And if he could be perfect, he’s probably a world-class jumper. In 10 lessons he’s not going to be perfect. He’s probably at the stage where he’s OK. If he can do this, say, once every six weeks during the season it might just help him. “You’re risking that a horse might jump too high, but I’d rather have a horse like him jumping too high than falling on his head … I don’t want to see him hurt. The people who own him, he’s like a pet – they (Mapp and his wife Sue) had him on their Christmas card. You want to take every precaution to see that he’s OK. I would say if you can ﬁnetune this horse’s jumping he could be anything.” Casey Mattson, a year 11 student at Casey Grammar in Cranbourne who spent three months in
Belgium last year learning and competing in shows, described Toulouse Lautrec as a “really quick learner”. Hyland said Casey was able to get the gelding to relax and to hold his body correctly with his head down watching the jump in front of him. And Don Mattson said Toulouse Lautrec was learning to tuck his legs up, to respect the fences, whereas last winter, “Your heart was in your mouth every time he went over a jump.” Toulouse Lautrec shaped as a star stayer as a young horse, winning the Queensland Derby (2400m) in June 2004 when trained by John Hawkes. His form faded – under a succession of trainers, including Lee Freedman – until Mapp sent him to Hyland to jump, and with the Cranbourne trainer he has proved an exciting
addition to Victoria’s jumping ranks. He had two wins and a second in three hurdle starts when ridden by Steve Pateman. Rod Durden took over and from May-June last year Toulouse Lautrec won at Moonee Valley ($1.55 fav), Mornington ($1.35 fav), Flemington ($1.65 fav) and Sandown ($2.10 fav). In July, again a short-priced favourite ($2.10), he fell in the Grand National. Overall, after a solid ﬁrst-up ﬂat run over 1610m at Flemington on January 17, he has 12 wins from 44 starts and has earned about $850,000 – $255,000 of that is from jumps racing. Hyland will keep Toulouse Lautrec on the ﬂ at until after the Warrnambool carnival (May 5-7), then run him in mainly set-weights and penalties jumps races on the way to the $200,000 Hiskens Steeplechase (3700m) at Moonee Valley on July 25. If he does well in the Hiskens, and if Hyland is happy with the weight allotted, he also will tackle the $200,000 Grand National Steeplechase (4350m) – to be run this year at Sandown, on August 30. “Once they get to this level you’ve got to pick your mark,” Hyland said. “He puts in pretty hard when he goes to the races, so if we can have ﬁve (steeple) runs and win three of them, I’d walk away and say that was a great year. Maybe next year he’ll be mature enough to go to Japan (for the Nakayama Grand Jump over 4250m in April – the race won by the remarkable Australian Karasi in 2005-06-07 aged 10, 11 and 12). “I discussed it with Grahame and I recommended that he didn’t go (this year because of the likelihood of a hard track and having to stay in quarantine abroad for a couple of months). He’s probably not quite foolproof enough to want to try that yet, and he may never be the horse for that type of race … but if he has a great year this year and jumps a hell of a lot better, then he might be seasoned enough to go for it next year.”
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A FAMILY AFFAIR
s a child of four, maybe ﬁve, Grahame Begg remembers days spent sitting on a fence and watching his father, Neville, lunge yearlings. It was all part of the breaking-in process for the horse – and the youngster looking on. For Neville Begg, rarely has a day gone by in his 77 years when a horse hasn’t been involved. Growing up in Newcastle in the 1930s just about everyone had a horse: Neville’s grandfather clipped cart-horses from the local brewery; the grandson was carted off to school by horse and sulky. It should come as no surprise that the Begg family continues to make a mark on thoroughbred racing. Grahame, who was thrust into training in 1990 when Neville
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announced he was going to Hong Kong to train, had a memorable 2008 Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington. The Randwick trainer, 47, won two feature races with All Silent (5yo b g, Belong To Me (USA)-Lisheenowen, by Semipalatinsk (USA)), including the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m), and stablemate Palacio De Cristal (3yo ch f, Encosta De Lago-Crystal Palace (NZ), by Palace Music (USA)) won the Moet & Chandon, a 1700-metre race for ﬁ llies on Oaks day – three from three in a week when racing in Australia is showcased to the world. There was nothing remarkable about Begg’s career path. “It just came naturally,” he said. “I had no inclination to do anything else (but train horses). I used to work in the stables when I had days off school and on the weekend, especially Sundays.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILLSON (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
Working with racehorses has been an integral part of the Begg family’s life for many years. It has provided them with success throughout Australia and in Hong Kong. The passion runs deep and, in this generation at least, shows no signs of dissipating. WORDS CRAIG YOUNG.
BENCHMARK: Trainer Grahame Begg still leans on his father Neville for advice when he pops into the Randwick stables.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
“I went to year 10 in school. My ﬁrst trip away with horses was in the school holidays. I was 15 at the time and we went to Queensland – Dad had a couple up there for the Oaks.” Grahame learned from Neville, who learned from family in Newcastle. “I was mucking out boxes at seven and eight,” Neville said. “I worked for (trainer) Ron Cashman at Randwick when I was going to school.” Neville’s uncle, Eric Reynolds, was a jockey who had success in India in the 1930s. “Naturally, I wanted to be a jockey when I was young,” Neville said. “I only had a few rides in races. I got too heavy. I just stuck on. I started strapping horses, started breaking in. Later, I eventually became a foreman and then took out a trainer’s licence myself.” Begg was a foreman for revered horseman Maurice McCarten at Randwick when a young man from the bush was beginning to turn racing on its head – T.J. (Tommy) Smith. “Tommy came to light when we had Delta,” Begg said. “He was only just getting going ... Delta was favourite for the (1949) AJC Derby and he (Smith) produced that horse Playboy as a maiden and it beat us in the Derby. “Delta (B h 1946, MidstreamGazza, by Magpie) went to Melbourne and won the Cox Plate as a three-year-old, won the VRC Derby, came back a weight-for-age star. He ended up winning the (1951) Melbourne Cup.” Working for McCarten, Begg was involved in the development of horses such as Todman, Noholme, Wenona Girl and Up And Coming. There were many other stars in the 20-odd years spent with McCarten but Begg wanted to train. “I got my licence in 1967 and had four horses,” Begg said. “I had them in Cec Rolls’s old stables on the hill at Randwick – they’ve just knocked them down.” He went from four horses to a maximum of 90, stabled in different parts of Randwick racecourse.
SILENT SALUTE: Dwayne Dunn celebrates All Silent’s stunning win in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington during the 2008 Melbourne Cup carnival.
Begg and wife Yvonne raised six children as the trainer set about leaving a legacy, winning races throughout Australia. Eldest son Neale is still part of the stable under Grahame (he strapped All Silent for his Flemington wins) and there is another son, Martin. Daughter Linda married Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Wayne Harris. Twins Caroline and Carmel completed the family, with Carmel marrying John Size, who is the leading trainer in Hong Kong (see Page 16). “I was working seven days a week, working my tail off,” Neville said. “My wife was a school teacher. She raised the kids, looked after my books, did all the colours, took the kids on school holidays.” Grahame took some of his father’s load when he left school and joined the stable full-time. “I used to spend anywhere between three to six months away, travelling to the carnivals,” Grahame said. “Neville would always have horses at the major
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carnivals, stretching from the east coast to the west coast. Most of the year was spent interstate. “When the opportunity came for Neville to go to Hong Kong the time was right for me to take out a licence.” Grahame had a superb “apprenticeship”, as did Kevin Moses, the stable’s apprentice jockey, who won the 1980 Golden Slipper on Dark Eclipse (Baguette-Marjoram, by Major General (GB)) for his boss. Moses, who won three Sydney jockeys’ premierships, is a Group 1-winning trainer at Randwick, alongside Grahame Begg. Neville had remarkable success with ﬁllies and mares. “I won the Oaks in every mainland state except South Australia,” he said. The brightest star was
‘ Sometimes I’m
probably too patient, but if they are not ready to cope you don’t force the issue. GRAHAME BEGG
Emancipation (Bletchingly-Ammo Girl, by Gunsynd), a grey mare brought to the stable from Dubbo by bloodstock agent Les Young. “She was only ordinary, a scraggy thing, when she came in out of the paddock,” Begg said. “She was a temperamental sort of thing. Grahame looked after her nearly all her life.” Grahame said Emancipation stood out as the best Neville trained. “The record speaks for itself.” She won 19 of 28 races, six at Group 1 level – ﬁve of them at Randwick, including the 1983 Doncaster Handicap (1600m). Begg had plenty of winners but did not have the horses to match Tommy Smith, who strung together 33 Sydney premierships. He came close in 1982-83 when Smith won 81.5 races to Begg’s 78.5. “I got within a winner of him on the last day, but he beat me by two or three. With all the media (attention), it was nerveracking,” Begg said. It was the ﬁfth of seven seasons in a row that Begg ﬁnished second to T.J., a position he ﬁlled nine times overall. By the late 1980s Begg began to question what his future held.
Never able to spend extravagantly on yearlings to restock his racing team, Begg relied on loyal breeders, big and small, but many were leaving racing. “Things were getting a little bit tough,” he said. “I knew I’d ﬁ nd it difﬁcult to get a good string of horses and the offer came up to go and have a look at Hong Kong,” he said. “I had to make up my mind very quickly. It happened just after Easter and I had to be there on June 1. “When you get to nearly 60 it is a change of lifestyle, a shock, but my wife embraced it and I loved it.” Begg went to the Australian Jockey Club committee and explained the situation. In its wisdom the committee split his stable between Grahame and another trainer, Bill Mitchell. “Some horses left, some horses stayed,” Grahame said. “We had some good horses, but the one that upset me (losing) the most was Bureaucracy (Lord BallinaTulla Doll, by Oncidium (GB)) – it went to Jack Denham. “That was a kick in the arse that one, he was a good racehorse and we had him from a young age, but these things happen and you move on, don’t you? “I trained a Group 1 winner within the ﬁrst four or ﬁve months. I won the 1990 (Gr.1) Doomben Cup (then the BATC Fourex Cup) with Neville’s old horse Eye Of The Sky (Long Row (GB)-Airini (NZ), by Zamazaan (FR)). It beat Solar Circle and Rough Habit.” Begg snr made a success of his time in Hong Kong until he reached compulsory retirement age (65), and Grahame prepared his father’s mare Bonanova (Star Way (GB)-St. Klaire, by Bletchingly) to win the 1999 Emirates Stakes. It was his last Group 1 winner until All Silent carried the same colours (black, white armbands, red cap) to win the 2008 version of the race. In the mid-1990s, Grahame Begg triumphed as a visitor to Hong Kong, his sprinter
Monopolize winning the International Bowl (1400m) in 1995-96. Begg has experienced the lows as well as the highs of racing, and in 2005-2006 was caught up in the Written Bloodstock debacle – the company, which had placed 30 horses with Begg, collapsed and its horses were sold off. Among those he trained was Our Egyptian Raine (B m, Desert Sun (GB)-Egyptian Queen (NZ), by Karioi Lad), who had six Group 1 seconds under Begg’s care. “He never blotted his copybook when it was all going to pot,” Neville Begg said of his son, who said: “It was extremely draining but made easier being surrounded by family.” ‘Family’ also includes Grahame’s wife Sue, who rode trackwork for Neville and runs the stable ofﬁce for Grahame. “She trains the trainer,” Grahame said. The bond between father and son remains strong. Grahame said: “Neville pops into the stable a couple of times a week. He certainly offers an opinion, no doubt about that. “We bounce things off each other. We work out the right formula, what’s the right thing to do for each horse. Two heads are better than one.” Patience is the key thing Neville taught Grahame, who said: “Sometimes I’m probably too patient, but if they are not ready to cope you don’t force the issue.” Is there a next generation of trainer? Probably not – Grahame’s 16-year-old son, Oliver, doesn’t mind the races, but only for the social side, and Grahame said: “No mate, he is into his footy, his rugby union.” Neville pointed out that Oliver, who goes to Marcellin College at Randwick, is captain of the Randwick Warriors junior team. He added: “I don’t think there will be any more trainers in the family.” Grahame, however, still has the desire, the passion, and plenty to offer. “I’m very proud of him,” Neville said.
HAVE SADDLE, WILL SLING by Craig Young Damien Oliver and Dwayne Dunn, the jockeys who won on All Silent during the Flemington carnival last spring, are receiving special slings – handmade saddles from the horse’s strapper, Neale Begg, brother of trainer Grahame. “They’ll be well made,’’ Grahame said in praise of Neale’s craftsmanship. Neale, 51, has the credentials to back up his brother’s comments. He made the saddles for Baz Luhrmann’s recent major ﬁlm, Australia, starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. He worked on all the saddles and several props for the movie. “There were about 30 saddles I had to ﬁx up, make them safe,” he said. “And I did the oldfashioned water bottles, the saddle bags, all those things. I did it over a couple of months. It was enjoyable.” Neale Begg completed a ﬁve-year apprenticeship in saddle-making about 30 years ago. He works on his craft in his Randwick workshop on time off from his job as stable foreman, with most Sydney companies closed down. He describes his saddles as “real leather, not the “s… plastic they import”. Champion Hong Kong jockey Douglas Whyte and veteran rival Felix Coetzee, who rode top sprinter Silent Witness, use Begg’s saddles and Coetzee got his latest in December. “It usually takes me about four days to make one,” Neale said. Graham said his brother could do anything with his hands, and added Neale was
THE SADDLER: Neale Begg at work at his craft.
“very accomplished, very, very good at his craft”. Neale did not go to the premiere of Australia. He explained he was away on holiday, needing time off after being in Melbourne, where he had spent a month with All Silent, the Group 1 winner owned by the family. Oliver won the AAMI Travel Stakes (1400m) on All Silent on Derby day and Dunn took over for the Emirates (1600m) on the last day of the carnival while Oliver served a suspension. It was the ﬁve-year-old gelding’s ﬁfth victory from 11 starts. The wins were a while coming. Neville Begg sold All Silent to Hong Kong before he raced, but, renamed Chiu Shan Elite, he did not settle in with trainer John Size. “Once he got up there, he wasn’t happy,” Neville said at Flemington after the gelding’s Group 1 breakthrough. “He laid down all day long, didn’t acclimatise at all.” Neville bought him back and gave him to Grahame at Randwick. He won ﬁrst up in July 2007, and has improved each campaign. “A very good horse,” Neale said. “He is going to win a very big race.”
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A FAMILY AFFAIR
When he arrived in Hong Kong, John Size was unsure how long he would be there. As he chases another trainers’ premiership, his dedication to his profession has won him many plaudits in his adopted home. WORDS STEPHEN HOWELL PHOTOS BRUNO CANNATELLI
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ohn Size’s total focus on training is best summed up with a tale of a hasty approach for an interview on a recent trip to Hong Kong for an international race meeting. As Size rode out of the tunnel on to the all-weather track at Sha Tin to work a well-behaved bay, I called out, “Any chance of catching up for an interview when you ﬁnish, John?’’ No answer. Not even a ﬂicker of recognition. Hong Kong racing writer Alan Aitken, standing next to me, joked: “That’s the end of that
then.” Wrong. A few minutes later, having dismounted back in the stable, which is out of bounds to non-licensed people, the driven Size got on his mobile phone to Aitken and told him to tell the other reporter he would talk with him at the barrier draw for the big races, to be held that morning in the parade ring at Sha Tin. The interview, with Hong Kong’s champion trainer, was quietly comfortable and, with background known – heading for a ﬁfth trainers’ premiership in only seven seasons – concentrated on the quiet, patient approach
EYE ON THE PRIZE: John Size rides one of his team, the Faltaat gelding Gold Striker (365), in trackwork at Sha Tin – all horses have numbered saddlecloths for easy identiﬁcation.
that has brought success and a queue of new owners, despite Size snubbing the system and not “schmoozing” those who provided the horses. The Australian told them that would hinder the task of training winners and simply got on with his job. Size happily answered all questions, but in a way that would have politicians drooling over his skill in giving away little more than ‘his approach suited horses’, and that was why they won. This time around – during another international meeting – another barrier draw interview was quickly arranged on bumping into Size, 54, the night before at a race meeting at Happy Valley. There was a speciﬁc question to ask: how come All Silent (B g 5, Belong To Me (USA)Lisheenowen, by Semipalatinsk (USA)), winner of the Emirates Stakes in Melbourne in the spring, did not get to race, let alone win, when he did not settle with Size? (The horse was bought in Australia and sold to a Hong Kong client by Neville Begg, Size’s father-in-law. After more than a year of getting nowhere, the owner sold him back to Begg, who gave him to his son Grahame to train in Sydney, and he proved to be a star – see previous pages.) “There is a high percentage of horses that don’t settle in,” Size said. “You ﬁnd that particularly with the horses that have raced. They come and don’t make the adaptation to Hong Kong and their performances are disappointing. That’s part of the environment and you just have to live with it.” Hong Kong is a prison of sorts for racehorses, almost all geldings, who leave cramped stables at Sha Tin only for trackwork and races at the same venue and at Happy Valley, 30 minutes to an hour away, depending on trafﬁc. It’s no wonder some don’t settle. There is no breeding industry, with horses imported (raced and unraced), largely from Australia and New Zealand. Asked if Neville Begg sent a lot of horses
TEAMWORK: John and Carmel Size at Sha Tin.
to him, Size said: “Neville quite actively buys horses and sends them over. He (All Silent) is one of those we sent back and he’s keeping the ‘outlaws’ happy, so that’s pretty good for ’em. “I don’t have a lot of buyers, I just have a couple of people ... I only have a team of 60, so we don’t need a lot of buyers.” Size’s wife Carmel is the daughter of Neville and Yvonne Begg. She spends time in Sydney and Hong Kong; Size said Hong Kong’s polluted air affected her health. When in Hong Kong, she plays a strong support role for the stable, “schmoozing” with clients at the races while the trainer concentrates on their horses.
‘ He’s keeping the ‘outlaws’ happy, so that’s pretty good for ’em.
Carmel Size was at Sha Tin for the December meeting that had four international Group 1 races, and the stable had a treble in the support races. In an environment in which owners love to be recognised, there is a set ceremony for the winner of each race, and John Size spends as little time being part of it as he can – when the jockey brings the horse back to the dismounting yard he unsaddles it and goes to weigh in; Size stays with the horse and strapper behind the photo stage, and Carmel comes into the yard with the owners; the jockey
returns and jumps back on the horse – a replacement saddle has been put on – and the horsemen move forward for photos with happy connections; a quick handshake or two and Size goes back to the jockeys’ room with the rider; Carmel goes for a drink with the owners. Teamwork. And, for the smiling Size, the chance to get on with what he loves doing, albeit at the risk of being regarded as one-dimensional. The spotlight is bright in Hong Kong, even more so at international meetings. Racing is the main sport and, with soccer betting (also run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club), the only outlets for legal gambling in a gambling-crazy society. How does Size handle the glare? “The spotlight doesn’t interest me,” he said. “It’s just my job that puts me in it. “Probably the pressure of it is the thing I enjoy more than anything else. It makes you perform, it makes you be on your best and it makes you think. To have nice horses, or to have runners in the good races ... sort of brings you up to the mark. It’s good for you. Very healthy.” Size is not alone in riding the horses he trains in work. He enjoys the advantages it gives him, claiming it enables him to make his decisions quickly. He rode nine in work the morning I spoke to him and said he would continue to do so while he could. Asked if he would stay until Hong Kong’s compulsory retirement age (65) – there have
been suggestions he will return at some stage to train in New South Wales – Size said: “I don’t know. It gives me options. I have no idea what will happen. Anything could happen, even with the ﬁnancial situation. It’s unpredictable, I mean the world changes ...” Size did not unpack all his bags for some time after his arrival, so convinced was he that he did not have the quality horses needed to succeed. “When I ﬁrst came here I struggled to ﬁnd the pleasure out of it,” he explained. “Now this is my eighth year, I’m certainly enjoying it a lot more.” He worked in Queensland for trainer Henry Davis, famous for bringing off plunges for owner Mark Read, before getting his own licence. In the late 1980s he stopped training, to work for Read, a big bookmaker/bettor, as a form expert. He returned to training in the early 1990s and shifted to Sydney where, based at Randwick, he had immediate success, especially with cast-offs. He went to Hong Kong, one of racing’s most competitive arenas, for the 2001-02 season, and won the premiership. This season he is lagging behind in a title race with another Australian, seven-time winner John Moore, who took over his father George Moore’s stable when the former great jockey quit training in 1985. “I’m very keen to win. I’ve won ﬁve out of seven, I don’t want to stop at that unless I have to,” Size said. “He (Moore) is having a great season. He hasn’t won a premiership since I’ve been here, so he’d been very keen to get one.” Each has a full stable. “I get offered horses quite often, but still it’s up to me to try to take the right ones if I want to,” Size said when asked if, unlike other trainers, he had owners queuing to give him horses. “I probably prefer to bring in younger horses and try a new horse. As any trainer will tell you, you never know where a champion’s going to come from. And if you get a young horse and you try him, well, he’s yours.”
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SURF AND TURF
Warrnambool has natural advantages that enable trainers to offer their horses an alternative lifestyle. The ‘beach brigade’ is helping themselves, and their colleagues, to the beneﬁts of surf and turf. WORDS MATT STEWART PHOTOS LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM
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at the â€™Bool T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D 19
SURF AND TURF
few years ago I was told a secret as I had a haircut from a young woman who grew up near Port Fairy. My father lived much of his childhood in the town and it has been a regular holiday destination, and a special place, for the Stewarts, ever since. The hairdresser claimed she knew the location of the fabled Mahogany Ship, wrecked near Warrnambool. She said it was buried under the Port Fairy tip, near the golf course. When her grandfather was about 10, he played in its hull, which used to jut out through the sand. A running joke between retired Racing Victoria chief steward Des Gleeson, an old ’Bool boy, and me has been which one of us will take the hairdresser’s tip as gospel and sneak out to the tip with a shovel. The Mahogany Ship – whether fair dinkum or fantasy, whether buried under the Port Fairy tip or under the ocean – is the Shipwreck Coast’s legendary treasure. But the coast also has other, less mythical, gifts. The famous Warrnambool three-day racing carnival in May is a treasure, as is the 30km of coast between Warrnambool and Port Fairy that has a knack of wrecking ships and mending racehorses. For 100 years, the long, soft, sweeping beaches have been a key tool for the region’s horse trainers. The district, from the coast to the huge inland properties, has always been “horsey”. The big landowning families of the 19th and 20th centuries raced horses and the Warrnambool area, without doubt, is the heartland and birthplace of Victorian jumps racing. Gleeson, raised at Yangary just outside Warrnambool, reeled off
HEALING WATERS: Jarrod McLean, on Kibbutz (foreground), with other Warrnambool waders. McLean, also a pre-trainer, does some preparation for David Hayes, trainer of Kibbutz , the 2007 Victoria Derby winner.
a long list of now-defunct tracks and race clubs that used to host the district’s rich racing industry. “Koroit, Purnim, Woodford, Winslow, Port Fairy, Yambuk, Hawkesdale, McArthur … I’ve probably missed a few,” he said. “(And) don’t forget the Boggy Creek Hunt Club. The area has always been very rich in its racing. There have been generations of great horsemen.”
‘ The breakwater at Warrnambool is like Bourke Street some mornings. DES GLEESON
Gleeson said local legends such as trainers Pat Kelly, George and Norm Rantall and Kevin Lafferty – “the church wasn’t big enough for Kevin Lafferty’s funeral” – blazed a trail. However, this racing-rich coastal town has never had a better, or younger, treasuretrove of horse trainers with the rapid emergence of Jarrod McLean, Ciaron Maher, Matthew
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Williams, Patrick Ryan, Aaron Purcell and Symon Wilde in the past three or four years. These young trainers are seen by many owners as an affordable alternative to the big city stables, especially for crocks, stayers and jumpers. Numbers have swelled. “The breakwater at Warrnambool is like Bourke Street some mornings,” Gleeson said. Andrew Pomeroy, chief executive of the Warrnambool Racing Club, said the town was immensely proud of the group. “There’s a friendly rivalry. They all push each other, but they’re all pretty good mates who help each other out a lot,” Pomeroy said. In a competitive industry, this group – average age just under 30 – has managed to co-exist and thrive, bumping into each other almost every day, usually at the beach, but rarely stepping on each other’s toes. As Pomeroy says, they are mates and rivals. A horse that doesn’t suit one might suit the other. Clients are often shared, as is the workload, especially down at the Warrnambool breakwater where dozens of horses are worked and swum every morning. Their backgrounds vary, although many attended the same school or pony club. McLean, once an apprentice chef, moved from ponies to showjumpers to
racehorses. Maher started with motorbikes, Ryan a pair of running shoes. All of the young guns were inspired by the ’Bool’s magniﬁcent May racing carnival. They dominated last year’s carnival, as the locals have always tended to do. Ryan, a former school teacher and professional runner, won the Warrnambool Cup with beach-trained Video Star (Br m 2002, Quest For Fame (GB)-Danceabeel, by Zabeel (NZ)). Purcell won the Grand Annual Steeplechase with Ginolad (Br g 2000, Perugino (USA)-High Royale, by King’s High), a ﬂat crock he bought for $900, who beat the McLean-trained Greenlaw (Br m 2001, Sea Road-Twig The Star, by Paint The Stars), also a second-hand horse. Maher won the Brierly Steeplechase with Al Garhood (B g 1999, Zabeel (NZ)Alstomeria (GB), by Petoski (GB)). The Thoroughbred spoke to three of the young guns …
Jarrod McLean McLean, 27, always had a bit to do with horses. In the 1980s and ’90s, his dad Geoff raced a few handy gallopers with local trainers. They included ’90s Wangoom winners Peg’s Gift (Ch g 1987, Sharif-Night Of Stars, by Royal Artist) and M’Selle De Enz (B m 1993, Jugah-Enz, by The Pug (GB)).
BEACH BRIGADE: Trainers Jarrod McLean, Matthew Williams, Patrick Ryan and Aaron Purcell.
McLean has vivid childhood memories of Grand Annuals, watching the seven-minute rollercoaster ride from the grandstand, parading before the big race as part of the Boggy Creek Hunt Club pre-race entertainment. His brother Brad, now a leading cross-country rider, seemed more interested in cricket and footy as a youngster, but Jarrod became a regular pony clubber, then a talented equestrian. He’d knock around with Matthew Williams and Ciaron Maher on the pony circuit. “We’d go on and do shows together,” he said. “We were all good mates.” McLean became a pretty handy rider, competing at the Royal Melbourne and Adelaide Shows, but it was expensive. The
cheapest part was using the beach to freshen the horses. It was free. After leaving school half-way through Year 10 at age 15, McLean worked part-time for local trainer Shayne Fisher. “Ciaron was working there at the same time. We both wanted to become jockeys but only Ciaron made it,” he said. Next, McLean became an apprentice chef at a local tavern, Rafferty’s. At 18 he gained an owner-trainer licence and he trained one or two cheap, discarded horses in the morning and headed off to Rafferty’s to cook. McLean discovered he had a knack. His ﬁrst winner was a has-been horse called Bisraami (B m 1993, Raami (GB)-Bisarina (NZ), by Bismark 11 (GB)), who won a maiden at Edenhope in May 2001 at her 41st start, the 17th for her 20-year-old trainer. “It ran ﬁve or six seconds, earning
about two grand each time. At the time I was earning $130 a week as an apprentice chef. I thought Bisraami was a bloody champion.” McLean started leasing tried horses, or buying them cheap, and racing them with family friends. In his ﬁrst four years, he had four winners and described it as a slow start. He estimated he has trained more than 60 since then. An early winner was Stealth Knight (B g 1997, Chief’s Crown (USA)-Courteous (USA), by Afﬁrmed (USA)), a horse he bought from Testa Rossa’s owner John Capellin. “It’d had three starts,” he said. “We got eight grand together and sold it at eight blocks of a grand each. Eight grand was a bit of money for us, but I won two in a row with it and won on the Tuesday at the May carnival in 2002. That was a huge thrill for me.”
Rafferty’s changed hands not long after. “I decided to bite the bullet and start training full-time,” McLean said. “I could always go back to the kitchen if I was no good at it.” McLean’s big break came when he was handed a couple of broken-down horses by the wealthy OTI syndicate, the group that races last year’s Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer. Cargo Cult (B g 2001, Spectrum (IRE)-Cult Figure (NZ), by Ahonoora (GB)), owned by OTI, was his ﬁrst good horse. Next came the former David Hayes import Short Pause (B h 1999, Sadler’s Wells (USA)Interval (IRE), by Habitat (USA)). Cargo Cult, now retired, won only once for McLean, at Caulﬁeld in January last year, but he ran a series of close-up placings in black type races. McLean believes the beach and the co-operation of his fellow trainers are keys to his success. “It’s as easy to ﬂoat to the beach as it is to the track. It’s a great facility. We all ride our own work, it’s a big advantage. We all use the beach, we’re all down there helping each other out,” he said. “We probably don’t do much different. Ciaron might work his horses a bit tougher than I do mine, but it works for him.” McLean said there was no jealousy. “One of the Caulﬁeld trainers said to me after Ciaron won The Emirates (Stakes in 2007) with Tears I Cry that I must hate it. It’s not like that at all. We all have our turn. If one wins it’s good for us all.” Like most of his Warrnambool mates, McLean is expanding his business. He has 16 in work, 10 for OTI, and is building another 10 boxes. He has taken on a foreman and an apprentice, a young Irish kid called Michael Murphy, who used to work for Luca Cumani. “By Easter I’m hoping to have 25 in work. I’ve got to the stage I’ve had to say no a few times when people have asked me to take a horse. Touch wood, things are going great.”
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SURF AND TURF
Patrick Ryan Ryan, 33, brings an interesting mix of experiences and ideas to his training. He is one of seven kids of former country jockey and trainer Patrick Ryan – and nephew of Port Fairy’s favourite son Pat Hyland – and was a professional runner, competing at national level in relays. He was coached by world-class distance runner Steve Moneghetti and travelled internationally with marathoner Lee Troop. During this time Ryan also taught at various high schools in England and the US. Until recently he taught autistic children at the Warrnambool Special Development School, swapping the classroom for full-time training at the end of July last year. Ryan’s background in ﬁtness and physiology have proved an asset down the track. (Or, more speciﬁcally, down the beach.) And his teaching credentials have given him a fall-back position if his training career hits the skids. “If I get sick of it, I can always go back to teaching,” he said. Ryan’s father had always had a horse or two in work and a couple of years ago bought a seven-yearold mare called Saramen (B or br m 1996, Tirol (IRE)-Lunchtime Spirit (NZ), by Lunchtime (GB)) for $500. “I had no money whatsoever,” the son said. The young Ryan couldn’t resist applying some athletics principles to racehorses when his father took the mare to the beach – at Port Fairy, Killarney and Warrnambool – and he got to work on his guinea pig. “I’d always been interested in running methodology and I knew the basics, in relation to heart and lungs, were the same for horses. I used massage and ultrasound, keeping her muscles supple,” he said. Given soft but searching endurance training on the sand, Saramen stepped out in a Showcase Maiden and won by six lengths, then won a couple more. Ryan’s ﬁrst winner in his own right was Theatrical Dance (B m
WORK HORSES: Patrick Ryan’s horses make their way over the dunes to Killarney Beach, near Port Fairy, for fast work.
2001, Danzero-Backstage Star, by Regal Classic (CAN)), a tried horse bought on the internet. It won second-up over 1700m at $61 on the ﬁrst day of the Warrnambool May carnival two years ago. “The quaddie paid $140,000 that day. Some of Theatrical Dance’s owners missed it because they left their own horse out,” he said. Along came Video Star and Electric Ernie (Br g 2001, Rigoletto-Crown Of Kariettte, by Galveston (GB)), and a newcomer, former Chris Hyland-trained stayer Madison Lane (Ch g 2001, Jeune (GB)-Jeton Vert, by Rory’s Jester). Ryan’s methods have worked wonders on the trio. Video Star has won four of nine, including the 2008 Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) and Roy Higgins Quality (2500m at Flemington); Electric Ernie won three from three late last season; and Madison Lane won over hurdles last season and is being earmarked for Warrnambool in May. These horses are all stayers, all suited to Ryan’s style. “They never seem to reef and tear at the beach,
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they’re very relaxed,” he said. “It’s gentle on horses who have had problems. I’m sure the other trainers from down here would tell you the same.” Ryan, who, like McLean, is building new stables, is realistic about his team of crocks and beachcombers. Warrnambool in May, not Flemington in November, is his target. “I’m thinking more about Woodford Cups (run at Warrnambool each December) than Melbourne Cups,” he said. “Even now (early December) I’m thinking about Warrnambool (in May). It dominates most of your planning.”
Ciaron Maher Ciaron Maher’s ﬁrst career path (riding) was set the day his brother Eamon crashed his motocross bike and landed on his head. The second career (training) was set the day he returned from Ireland after a jumps series tipping the scales at 73kg. Maher, 27, has three brothers. As kids they were adrenalin junkies and had seven motocross bikes between them. “We’d be away every weekend with the bikes,” he said. But after Eamon’s crash, which put him in a coma
for three weeks, Maher’s mother banned the bikes for good. Ciaron moved on to horses. “I always wanted to ride,” he said. “I was always competitive and I thought being a jockey might give me the same sort of adrenalin rush.” After working alongside Jarrod McLean at Shayne Fisher’s stables, Maher became an apprentice. He had one winner, at Penshurst in 1997, from about 50 rides before giving it away for weight reasons. He rode over the jumps for about ﬁve years, with reasonable success, but his biggest performance as a jumps jockey was piling on 13kg on a tour of Ireland in 2002. Maher took out his trainer’s licence in 2004. His father, John, bought him a horse called Spectacular Storm (Ch g 1997, Jeune (GB)-Magical Storm, by Magical Wonder (USA)) and it was his ﬁrst winner. “It sort of took off from there,” he said. “A few locals backed me with a horse or two and I started targeting stayers and jumpers.” In the past couple of seasons the top-class jumper Al Garhood, as well as good jumpers Geeorb (B g 2000, Encosta De Lago-Our Saratoga (NZ), by Sky Chase
Starspangledbanner wins on Cox Plate Day
No is after winning Noes the Inglis Plate
Origami Miss wins the Ritzenhoff Handicap on Melbourne Cup Day
Origami Miss after the Handicap on Melbourne Ritzenhoff Cup Day
SPICER’S HOT RUN
rad Spicer’s phone has been a lot busier early in 2009 than it was this time last year when he was trying to syndicate ﬁve yearlings. Success breed success and thanks to a wonderful 2008 spring carnival, Spicer is ﬁnding that his syndication business, Spicer Thoroughbreds, is attracting a lot more interest from prospective racehorse owners. “I bought three yearlings at the Magic Millions (on the Gold Coast in January) and one of the colts was virtually syndicated before I got home,” Spicer said. Spicer Thoroughbreds hit the headlines last spring when four of its syndicated horses won feature races in the space of only a month. The $600,000 ﬁlly Noesis – the most expensive horse Spicer has bought – opened the account when she brilliantly won the Listed Maribyrnong Trial Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on Turnbull Stakes day. Noesis, by Exceed And Excel, is now valued at nearly double her purchase price. A week later, the 3YO gelding Fernandina, who at a purchase price of only $20,000 is at the other end of the scale to Noesis, won the Group 3 Guineas Prelude (1400m) at Caulﬁeld. Fernandina’s bank balance is now more then $200,000. On Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley, the Spicer Thoroughbred-syndicated Starspangledbanner, a strapping son of Choisir who cost $130,000, debuted with a win in the $250,000 Inglis Juvenile Stakes (1000m). Trainer Leon Corstens is setting the youngster for rich Group 1 races this autumn.
And to cap off a wonderful month, the improving Origami Miss, a 4YO mare who is related to Melbourne Cup winner Empire Rose – and who cost only $30,000 – won her third consecutive race, the $101,500 Ritzenhoff Handicap (1700m) at Flemington on Cup Day. Spicer learned his craft during 10 years as an owner and racing manager with leading trainer Leon Corstens. “I have learned a lot off Leon and also expert bloodstock agents such as George Smith and Gary Mudgway, and I continue to utilize their advice in my yearling sale selection,” Spicer said. The due diligence is working well – of those ﬁve yearlings that Spicer toiled to sell last year, two have won feature races at their only starts, one other ﬁlly was placed at Bendigo before she was spelled, and the other two are unraced but showing considerable promise. Spicer said the success during the spring has allowed him to increase his budget in 2009. “I spent a bit more than usual at the Magic Millions, and you can see it in the quality of the horses,” he said. He is now syndicating shares in an impressive half-brother, by ﬁrst-season sire Ferocity, to Magic Millions winner Lovely Jubly; a beautiful ﬁlly by Tale Of The Cat from former brilliant Group 1 winning mare Pharein; and a ﬁlly by hot young sire Charge Forward from Broccacia, who is closely related to Noesis. If you would like to Join the Spicer Thoroughbreds Team in 09 log onto www.spicerthoroughbreds.com.au or email email@example.com
SURF AND TURF
(NZ)), Spectacular Storm and Our Lotto (B g 2000, Bellotto (USA)-Charlotte, by Prince Echo (IRE)), and Hamilton Cup winner Brough Superior (Ch g 2000, Grosvenor (NZ)-Laverda (NZ), by Piazzetta (GB)) have been the back-up team to stable star Tears I Cry (B g 2002, Lacryma Cristi (IRE)-Cassazione, by Salieri (USA)). Brough Superior will be a Warrnambool Cup contender in 2009, but Maher no longer has Tears I Cry (now trained at Flemington by Larry Cooper). However, the exposure the trainer received when the gelding won the 2007 Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington has been invaluable. “We’re knocking back horses now,” he said. “The stable was going well before he came along, but to win a Group 1 … it was unbelievable for me.”
‘ He was a crock
when I got him, but we were able to train him from the beach. CIARON MAHER
Like his young colleagues, Maher credits the beach for much of his success. “It’s crucial and I’m there pretty much every day,” he said. “Port Fairy is a great summer beach. It’s long and wide and spacious. It’s better in summer than in winter. I ﬁnd the sand dunes at Killarney invaluable. “Geeorb never works at the track, for instance. He was a crock. His suspensory was nearly removed from the bone when I got him, but we were able to train him from the beach.” Like McLean, Ryan and the others, Maher said the natural advantage of the area – backed by the much-improved amenities of the racecourse – had helped forge successful careers. “We’ve made a name for ourselves because of it, for sure,” he said.
Dan and his dinghy The horse rower is a ﬁxture at Warrnambool’s Lady Bay. Words Danny Power It was only a few years after Dan McDonnell rode his ﬁrst horse that he rowed his ﬁrst horse. At the age of 14, in the chill of the morning, seven days a week, McDonnell would launch his dinghy from the banks of the Maribyrnong River, just outside the gates of the famous Flemington racecourse, as trainers lined up with their thoroughbreds for their daily swim. The kid rowed like James Tomkins as some of Australia’s best racehorses – under the care of trainers such as Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and Tony Lopes – snorted through ﬂared nostrils and surged through the gloom to keep up with the little boat with the teenage captain. Twenty-nine years on, McDonnell continues to row his horses. He has moved from the Maribyrnong River, where the practice became redundant when
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the Victoria Racing Club built a swimming pool for trainers in the mid-1980s, to Warrnambool. He has become an institution for trainers, locals and holiday-makers as he rows his horses in the shallows of the picturesque Lady Bay, in the sheltered waters between the breakwater and the mouth of the Hopkins River. No longer are his clients Cummings, Hayes and Lopes, but young guns Jarrod McLean, Patrick Ryan, Aaron Purcell, Matthew Williams and Ciaron Maher, who treat McDonnell’s dinghy as a training tool as valuable as the best track rider. For McDonnell, it’s a living. He charges $7 a horse, and on a busy day – and there are many in April leading into the famous Warrnambool three-day carnival – he and his partner can take up to 60 horses on a lap of the bay. Work starts between six and seven in the morning, and usually the last horse is dispatched up the beach about 10am. McDonnell touched the side of his boat when he said
he has not had a serious accident with a horse. “We had one get away one morning and he swam around a bit, but they eventually ﬁnd their way to the beach,” he said. Horses have always been part of McDonnell’s life. His father, trainer Ron McDonnell, is best known for preparing the sensational Double Century (Br h 1975, Century-Hello Love, by Adamastor (FR)) to win the 1979 Group 1 Sydney Cup (at Randwick) and Group 1 Queensland Derby (at Eagle Farm) after losing the Group 1 AJC Derby to Dulcify on protest at Randwick. Before that Ron was the stable foreman for Bart Cummings for many years. Dan McDonnell hasn’t followed his father into training, nor does he have the same gift of the gab, although this unassuming man, with the dry wit and a wet seat, has played a part in the racing careers of some of Australia’s best racehorses.
OARS FOR HORSES: Dan McDonnell rows another Lady Bay swimmer.
Escape to the 3 biggest picnic race days in the world. March 14
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Itâ€™s playtime trackside.
s do, in r ie d l so s a , r o a Talia gMu n as part of her job carries a the Israeli Army Talia (red beanie) with colleagues while serving on the West Bank
From soldier to jockey The amazing story of Talia Maor
Israel is a desert on the world racing map, but it gave a soldier and unlikely apprentice jockey a taste for stable life. Talia Maor is living her dream in Western Australia. WORDS STEPHEN MORAN PHOTOS COURTESY OF TALIA MAOR, JOSH RODDER
26 THE THOROUGHBRED
Talia with the great T and his trainer JoeakJeoaver Target niak hree-and-a-half years as a combat infantry ofﬁcer in the Israeli army, much of it spent stationed in the West Bank, is not the apprenticeship you associate with any jockey. Let alone one now riding in Australia. Nor one who is a young woman. However, that is the Talia Maor story. And it is just one chapter in a remarkable saga that has taken her from her kibbutz in Israel to Israeli racing (such as it is); to active military service; to the birthplace of Phar Lap in New Zealand; and now to Western Australia, where she is apprenticed to Fred Kersley. Entry to the world of horse racing might be somewhat surprising from such a background, but not so a connection with horses as Maor, who was born on Valentine’s Day in 1983, explains: “Every kibbutz has a small stable for showjumping horses and, like young girls I suppose anywhere, I got involved in pony club and dressage. But I didn’t really like dressage and, at 15, I started riding for a trainer … not that the racing or training is anything like you have here. “It’s very limited and you’re not allowed to bet. For years
er rac h t o n a e d i r o t Talia off
people have tried to make k it more mor professional and lobbied the Government for support and to allow betting, but Israel has so many other issues to deal with. It’s not a priority. It’s seen as a hobby for rich people, but it is one of the few areas where you see Palestinians and Jews together.” Israeli racing is rudimentary at best with a small population of thoroughbreds and Arabs, more so when Maor was a teenager. She was drawn to it, however, especially after her elder sister Dina had worked for a trainer and ridden trackwork in Italy. “I loved it, even though it was very basic,” she said. “The races were held on a big ﬁeld on the natural dirt/sand surface. The spectators watched from benches on the side of the hill. The inside rail was a wooden fence with a partial outside rail only after the ﬁnish. You’d say it was something less than a trial here … perhaps like a picnic meeting, but probably not that good.” As basic as it was, it whet Maor’s appetite for racing, an appetite that is only just starting to be sated, and in a different part of the world. Family friends became Maor’s adopting family in her late teens after her parents (her father a
I’ve,’ seen terrorienadsttadicke s..... . I’ve seen fr y heart it broke m ,’
World War II survivor and her mother a translator) divorced and moved away from the kibbutz. She maintained her interest in horses, completed her Year 12 education and expanded her mobility with the purchase of an old Austin car, which she paid for by working part-time at that ubiquitous fast food outlet. Yes, they’re everywhere! Twenty-one months of compulsory military service followed her schooling and was extended to three-and-a-half years. It included deployment to the West Bank and to its largest city, Hebron, where 500 Jewish settlers are among 160,000-plus Palestinians in one of the Middle East’s hot-spots. “The work was generally surveillance or as part of security patrols,” said Maor, who graduated in less than a year from the Israeli Army’s ofﬁcers academy.
“It’s daunting, but you are raised to serve your country. There is little distinction between men and women. There are a large number of females in the Israeli Army … many are ofﬁcers, many are in active combat situations. That’s the way it is. “The army matures people and you are raised to believe it’s your duty, but I’ve done my time and I wouldn’t go back. I’ve seen terror attacks … I’ve seen friends die ... it broke my heart,” she said. “And the conﬂict will go on. Resolution will take more than talks, more than handing any land back. It will take generational change over many years to come.” The young woman, who speaks ﬂuent French, English and Hebrew and who is a triple passport holder courtesy of Franco-American and Israeli parents, decided after discharge to return to working with horses,
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PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLLANDS-PHOTO@IINET.NET.AU
MAOR THE MERRIER: Another winner for Talia Maor – George’s Park over 1675 metres at Bunbury, south of Perth, on January 4. It was a special win for Maor because she wore the colours of the late Rod Bynder, who was one of her greatest supporters. George’s Park is now trained by Sarah Todd, who was Bynder’s partner, and it was the ﬁrst winner in her name.
but she found the opportunities weren’t there. “There has been little change, little progress in many years of horse racing in Israel,” she said. Maor decided to go to New Zealand and was there from February-December 2005. “I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to go to New Zealand,” she said. “It had nothing to do with horses. I’d said to myself I wouldn’t do horses there.” That all changed when her travels unwittingly took her to Timaru, the home of Phar Lap. There by “mistaken chance”, as she put it, she saw the Phar Lap raceway. “I knew the spark was still there for racing,” she said. “I
28 THE THOROUGHBRED
got the phone numbers of a couple of trainers and did some work for a wonderful woman named Polly McDonald at Bluestone Stud. “The bug was back and then I was lucky enough to meet Angela Smith, who trained Time Frame (the 1997 Perth Cup winner) and she was amazing. I told her I wanted to be an apprentice jockey and she said, ‘Come to Perth. I will make it happen for you.’ I couldn’t believe it.” That apprenticeship began, in Perth, in August 2006. It was only a month before Maor rode in trials, it was not until February 2007 that she had her ﬁrst race ride in Western Australia, ﬁ nishing ishing third, beaten less than a length, on SOCIAL SCENE: Talia Maor enjoys off-track activities as well as race riding.
Mondane at Pinjarra. “And the saddle moved forward,” she said. A promising start but not a portent of immediate success. Maor had to wait until June that year for her ﬁrst win. It came at Leonora, which is 235km north of Kalgoorlie, aboard Bedouin Lass. “It was my 54th or 55th ride, but I wasn’t going to give up. No chance of that. Winning that day was my biggest buzz,” she said. Her progress has been solid, despite breaking her jaw and a collarbone in separate incidents and, at the time of writing, having not ridden a city winner. She had six winners in November; has two doubles at
TAB meetings at Albany; booted home a 50-1 pop at that track; and has enjoyed the role of strapping NSW visitor Sniper’s Bullet in his feature runs at the Perth carnival. She also sat on the champion, Takeover Target. “I’ve got a long way to go, I know that,” Maor said. “Early on, I wasn’t good with criticism. I’m an over-heated redhead and I would attack back, but not now. I have to listen and learn. I’m working hard. I sit and watch replays all the time and I hope I am improving. “I know how to sit on, but I have to become better with tactics and become a better
, wasn ’t
‘Early on, I good with criticism. I’ am an over-heated redhead and I woul d attack back
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judge of pace … and sometimes my use and understanding of words is incorrect, so the message is slower getting through. But I’ll get there.” What does her current master, Fred Kersley, think? “At the moment I would describe her as a very competent provincial rider,” the trainer said. “She’s on a learning curve but she’s a natural lightweight, a tough nut and a hard worker. She’s determined and dedicated and her destiny is in her own hands now. She has the potential and she’s certainly improved since our ﬁrst contact 12 months ago.” It’s no surprise she’s a ‘tough nut’, given her background, and I fancy you’d be unwise to bet against the girl they call ‘Tars’ or ‘Smiley’ making it on the regular Saturday city circuit. “That’s the goal now and hopefully I make it. But, whatever happens, it’s been a fantastic experience and people have been so good to me. All the
jockeys have been happy to help and trainers like Fred and Angela and Paul Jordan and Rod Bynder, who sadly died this year, have been great supporters,” she said. Maor’s visa expires next November, so the future is unclear. In the meantime she vows to keep improving and to work hard apart, from a break in January when she returned to Israel to ‘meet the family’ with new partner Josh Rodder, who is a marketing executive with Perth Racing. They were introduced by jockey Paul Dyson, who apparently noticed Maor’s Star of David and rang his mate Rodder, who is of the faith, to tell him: “I’ve just met your future wife.” Hmmm, I wonder if he added, “She’s probably not a girl to mess with.” So, can an Israeli-trained soldier – as legend would have it – really kill you with a credit card? “Well, it’s one of those questions where there’s nothing to be gained by denying it,” she said. Hmmm, hope she likes the story!
PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLLANDS-PHOTO@IINET.NET.AU
SMILING STAR: Talia Maor celebrates the win of George‘s Park.
g n i t t e b o n , g n i c a No r aeli Jockey Cl ub to inquire
Stephen Moranofemraaicinledg thineIsrIsrael. This is the reply: about the state Hi Stephen, Talia’s We in Israel have been following the with d ghte deli are and ess succ and opportunities she is now receiving elf. hers ed prov on how well she has Israeli Soon after Talia began riding, the 1999) and (in ed blish esta was Club ey Jock to for the last nine years has attempted try. coun this in g racin drive forward horse t anen perm only l’s Israe , Unfortunately ed at clos na, Han ess Pard se, cour race are now the end of June last year and we The ver. tsoe without any racing wha ers, situation is critical as owners, train g hard facin all are eys jock and ders bree for a times. The IJC is actively look ing new a unce anno to new site and hopes . year this venue early
on All raci ng in Israel takes place of ation cess the l unti and dirt natu ral of raci ng the IJC staged an average still no 10 day s raci ng a year. There is Israel the but , here ing lega lised bett seriously last) (at is d Boar ing Bett Spor ts inni ng beg look ing into the feas ibility of se, cour of ld, wou bett ing on raci ng. This d coul and ely plet com e change the gam for ket mar m boo new a into el turn Isra raci ng in the Middle East. t With rega rd to your question abou erie arad cam al enic building the ecum centres, that exists in many other racing matter I was only today discussing the pean with representatives of the Euro can act ng raci that eve beli Union. We all een betw tions rela er bett to uit as a cond our com mun ities with in Israel and with
with Arab neighbours, and hope that t it will spor the lega lisation of betting on nities ortu opp job d ede prov ide much-ne ote prom and ities mun com in rura l sides. harmony and cooperation on all ne onli our Please take a look at section racing magazine’s ‘Latest New s’ and om bly.c wee ews. ingn – israelirac s when a scroll dow n to the sum mer new part took ers runn num ber of Palestinian in our races. Kind rega rds, Paul Alster ions Head of Media & Com municat Israeli Jockey Club
Melbou urne Festiva al of Racing anuary 31 - Marrch 14 Ja www.melbournefestivalofracing.com.au
PHOTO BY GEORGINA MITCHELL
FOCUS ON THE HUNTER
The Major & the Mitchells Over 40 years, and through good times and bad, an English family has put Yarraman Park at the forefront of the Australian breeding business. WORDS DANNY POWER
32 THE THOROUGHBRED
WORK IN PROGRESS: Harry (left) and Arthur Mitchell at Yarraman Park with yearlings to be offered at this yearâ€™s Easter sale in Sydney
the total barely paid the staff and the feed bill. It was around that down time, in the mid-to-late 1990s, that the Yarraman Park boys could feel the yearling sale market was starting to grow, and like surfers who get excited by the lift of an impending big swell, the Mitchell brothers hopped on board for the ride. They made adjustments, and investments, to be part of the action. And in 2006, they rode the breeders’ equivalent of Pipeline.
‘ We are eternally
grateful to dad for stepping aside at a relatively young age and giving us a crack.
fter the Mitchell brothers – Arthur and Harry – sold more than $10 million worth of yearlings at the 2006 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, their hospitality marquee at the historic Inglis sale yards in Newmarket, Sydney, was pumping like a rave party. Not that the ruckus was much different in other less proﬁtable years, as the Yarraman Park tent had become a favourite stopping
point for many trainers, buyers, agents and fellow vendors – and old mates – especially at the end of a long day of searching and haggling, and more searching. The Mitchells of Scone, in the Upper Hunter Valley, are wonderful and enduring hosts. But this time the mood was different – euphoric after achieving the result of all results. Such a position would have been unthinkable 10 years earlier, when there were times the Mitchells added up the sales tickets to ﬁnd
The breeding industry, especially the commercial yearling sale market, can be an unforgiving place. It is easy to dodge when you should weave. In 2006, the Mitchells sidestepped into the record books when their colt by Redoute’s Choice from Deja Slew (by Slew O’ Gold) – named Nodoubt Deja – sold for $3 million to the bid of South African Charles Laird, and Coolmore’s Demi O’Byrne outlayed $2.6 million for Alinghi’s sister, by Encosta De Lago from Oceanfast, by Shirley Heights (GB). (Named Perfect Persuasion, and trained by Lee Freedman, she won one race – a Kyneton 1200m maiden – and $27,430 from 10 starts. She was covered by Rock Of Gibraltar last spring. Nodoubt Deja won one of his ﬁrst three starts in South Africa.) It was hard to wipe the smile of Harry’s face and Harry’s not a great smiler. He’s funny, as dry as a Scone summer, and as sharp as a farrier’s pick. This day, he was laughing. Arthur, in typical pose, elbows on the railing, barely visible through a haze of smoke, would only say circumspectly, “Every
dog has its day, and today was ours.” But their tails were wagging profusely and the Mitchells were able to pay off their debt, upgrade their broodmare band and spend money on much-needed improvements to the farm. Yarraman Park will never be a showpiece in the ilk of Coolmore, Darley and Arrowﬁeld, and the marvellous history of the farm is not as evident when you drive through the gates as you do when turning into wonderful old Hunter Valley properties such as Vinery (née Segenhoe) and Edinglassie, but Yarraman is a highly professional and functional farm which has operated as a thoroughbred stud for more than 100 years, and some famous horsemen and women, and outstanding racehorses have trodden through the Yarraman paddocks. The farm was ﬁrst developed in the late 19th century by William Thompson, the son of William Barber Thompson, the founding father of the Racing Hall of Fame inducted Thompson family, of the historic Widden Stud. It was Thompson’s son Noel who bred the supreme champion racehorse Eurythmic (ch h 1916, Eudorus (GB)-Bob Cherry, by Bobadil) on the property that is now Yarraman Park. Eurythmic was sold to WA as a yearling where he dominated racing, winning the 1919 and 1920 Perth Cup and 1919 WA Derby, before coming to Melbourne where, under the care of Jack Holt, he won the 1920 Caulﬁeld Cup and Cox Plate, the 1921 Sydney Cup and three Caulﬁeld (Yalumba) Stakes (1920-21-22). Champion jockey George Moore made Yarraman Park his country home in the early 1960s, from where he stood an occasional stallion of little commercial gain, but mainly ran the sprawling 1400-hectare property for cattle, sheep and cropping. When Englishman and army man Major James Mitchell, born in 1922, gave up sword and hilt
THE THOROUGHBRED 33
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MARTIN KING
FOCUS ON THE HUNTER
MAJOR RESULT: Arthur (left) and Harry Mitchell ﬂank their father, Major James Mitchell, then aged 85, after the 2006 Inglis Easter Yearling Sales when Yarraman Park sold more than $10 million worth of yearlings.
for a sickle and saddle of farming life, ﬁrst in Gloucestershire and then in Norfolk, he also dabbled in the ﬁnery of hunting and the thrill of racing the odd jumper or two. That love of the land and the horse was instilled into his sons Arthur (born in 1955), Bill (1956) and Harry (1961). Major Mitchell’s love of travel and adventure, and new opportunities, found him in Australia and knocking on the front door of the Yarraman homestead with an offer to buy. Moore didn’t want to sell at ﬁrst, but eventually the transaction was done. The Major, wife Edith (better known as Bunty) and three young Mitchells arrived in Australia on December 31, 1968. Harry remembers driving through the gates of Yarraman to meet the Moores. He also remembers the heat and the ﬂies. It was a tough initiation to Australia for an English country lad. Not that the boys spent much
of their schooling days on the property. Arthur was packed off to Geelong Grammar in Victoria, while Bill and Harry were sent to Cranbrook in Sydney. It didn’t take long for the boys to lose their rich accents. Harry said his was gone before he ﬁnished primary school. Arthur’s tone remains a little more reﬁned than Harry’s and Bill’s, but that’s more because of mixing with the well-groomed lads of Geelong Grammar than the remnants of old England. All three Mitchell boys spent time working overseas on studs and in stables in England, France and North America. Arthur returned to run Yarraman Park, while Bill, later joined by Harry, began training from stables at Randwick. It was Bill and Harry who ﬁrst made the Mitchell name a signiﬁcant one in Australian racing. They had marvellous success, especially in 1989 when they won the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m at Randwick) with From The Planet and the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m at Flemington) with the outstanding Stylish Century. The success of the stable was providing a huge boost for the
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rest of the Mitchell clan, who were struggling to make Yarraman Park a viable concern after a string of failed stallions came and went, starting with Straight Master (GB) (Ch h 1964, Skymaster (IRE)Royal Straight (IRE), by Straight Deal (GB)), a good class English handicapper who covered only 23 mares in his three seasons at Yarraman before he died. Good “bread and butter” stallions such as County (b h 1981, Vain-Donna Nook, by Relko (GB)), who began serving in 1985, and Forest Glow (gr h 1987, Green Forest (USA)-Aﬂicker (USA), by Damascus (USA)), from 1993, helped keep things ticking along at Yarraman. By that time Harry had returned to the farm. “County was good for us,” he said, “especially when Show County (B h 1986, from Showrica, by Dorica Star) came from his ﬁrst crop,” Harry said. Show County won 11 Stakes races as a 2YO and 3YO. “When I returned to the farm, we realised that we needed extra cash ﬂow to be able to buy the mares we needed to keep improving the farm,” Harry said. “So we developed a pre-training stable on the farm, which went
very well for us for many years. We had good clients and a steady stream of horses.” The pre-training side of the business has stopped. Finances don’t require it, but also when Bill moved to Melbourne, and eventually gave away training in late 2005 to concentrate on a bloodstock business, pre-training had lost another key family purpose. Life’s much better for the Mitchells from Scone. Both Arthur and his wife Kirsty, and Harry and his wife Georgie, live in houses on the farm. Their paths cross daily. Arthur is in charge of the breeding side of things while Harry’s job is yearlings, rearing and sales preparation. The stud suffered a loss when their highly successful sire Catbird (B h 1996, Danehill (USA)-Fitting, by Marscay), winner of the 1999 Group 1 Golden Slipper, died suddenly in June 2007. Yarraman now stands the underrated (not by the Mitchells) Magic Albert (Ch h 1998, Zeditave-Sally Lou, by Salieri (USA)), Foreplay (B h 2001, Danehill (USA)-Procrastinate, by Jade Hunter (USA)) and the new Argentine import Trotamondo (Ch h 2001, Hussonet (USA)-Movie Producer (USA), by Give Me Strength (USA)). The Mitchell boys are grateful for their parents in making the move to Australia. “Bunty” Mitchell died of cancer in 1990, only a few years after the Major handed over the running of Yarraman to his sons. “We are eternally grateful to dad for stepping aside at a relatively young age and giving us a crack,” Harry said. The Major, at 87, is still going strong, and, according to Harry, “retains all the vices”. One wonders what life would have been like for the Mitchell boys had the Major stayed put in Norfolk. Freezing cold winters, hot toddies by the ﬁre, and the odd scrap of polo on ﬁne days – hard to imagine what an Easter sale would be like without them.
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FOCUS ON THE HUNTER
Yearlings… the Yarraman way WORDS DANNY POWER PHOTOS LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM
rthur and Harry Mitchell have a proven philosophy in preparing yearlings for sale – keep it simple. Yarraman Park is a historic patch of Hunter Valley dirt, a dry, hilly farm on the outskirts of Scone, with access to irrigation if needed, but that is kept speciﬁcally for the mares. This is prime horse country. “My horses do so well on the natural country, we don’t have to over-feed them or over irrigate,” Harry said. The Mitchells are at one with their surroundings. They utilise the advantages of Yarraman Park in the rearing of their young racers – the hills, the rich, dry ground, the minerals in the soil
and the climatic conditions. The dry doesn’t worry the Mitchells, or the horses. “We are not big on irrigation. Not that we don’t respect irrigation, as some of the big farms in the Hunter rely on it, but here we like to raise our horses in a more natural environment. Some of the best horses we have bred have been raised in the driest years. If it gets dry, then it’s dry.” Harry said. “The ground here produces the correct bone-density, which we believe is what you get off the nonirrigated ground. It’s ﬁne to have lovely black soil on those lucerne ﬂats, but when some of those horses come to do any work, they haven’t been on any hard ground. “Our yearlings run around and
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play on the hard ground, even in the winter in the frosts, and I’m sure they beneﬁt from it. I’m not convinced about over-irrigated ground for horses.” For Harry and Arthur, the aim is to produce a yearling at the sales that has the Yarraman stamp. Not just a Yarraman stamp on its rump, but a look that is distinctly Yarraman. “We learned a lot in
‘ He’s got to be a
beauty to go to Easter, as it can be a very unforgiving sale for the wrong horse. HARRY MITCHELL
PICTURE PERFECT: Sydney’s champion trainer Gai Waterhouse inspects a Magic Millions yearling at Yarraman Park in December 2008. The stud is an important port of call for most leading trainers.
those early years. We all have had overseas experience, and because of our close association with trainers, we worked out what they wanted in a yearling at the sales, and we then went about producing it,” Arthur said. Harry said the yearling preparation evolved. “We got better at it as we went along. The overseas inﬂuence has been strong, both from going over there and the people coming here. The Irish have had a big inﬂuence in the change in preparation and presentation. You evolve, you watch and learn, and then you try to do it your own way.” And what does a Yarraman-bred yearling look like? “An athlete. Not heavy, but not light, well muscled with the correct bone
density. I know when people look at the horses at the sales, they see a Yarraman yearling. It’s our own brand, and I know the trainers like them,” Harry said. “I like my yearlings to be reasonably ﬁt. This was something we recognised early on. I was one of the ﬁrst blokes to get a walking-machine.” Harry recalls the days when yearlings from the Hunter farms were paraded fat and shiny, as if they were in a show ring. “I remember early on when the Marscay yearlings ﬁrst came to the sales, and a lot of boutique breeders, who are now out of the game, presented them too fat,” he said. “A lot of those horses broke down.” According to Harry, one of the keys to success is treating the horses as individuals. “I am very hands-on,” he said. “I am there every morning leading them myself, it’s a big advantage. You get to know the horses. Which ones need the extra work, which ones don’t, which ones need extra feed. That has given us an edge over the years. We had to be like that, hands-on, it was our livelihood. We weren’t rich people, it was important to get the yearlings to the sales and get them sold.” By making a good name as yearling presenters, the Mitchells attracted a better clientele. Some of their big successes, before the “Everest” of 2006, were with clients’ horses, such as Snitzel (b c 2002, Redoute’s Choice-Snippets’ Lass, by Snippets), the brilliant speedster who won the 2006 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulﬁeld at three, after a stellar 2YO season when his wins included the Group 2 Skyline Stakes (1200m) and Listed Breeders’ Plate (1000m). Yarraman Park sold Snitzel at the 2004 Magic Millions Sales for $260,000. In 2007, they sold his sister, later named Viennese and herself a Stakes winner, for $1.4 million. “We were selling nice athletic horses but if we sold one for more than $100,000 we did cartwheels.
HARRY MITCHELL’S YEARLING REPORT Redoute’s Choice-Snippets’ Lass “The colt most like Snitzel; not overly big, but very powerful. He has a magniﬁcent hindquarter, great action, great temperament. That’s basically what he is in a nutshell. A beautiful colt.”
SNITZEL’S BROTHER: The Redoute’s Choice-Snippets’ Lass colt, a brother to Snitzel, who will be one of the highlight lots to be sold by Yarraman Park at the 2009 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.
Encosta De Lago-Oceanfast “Quite a bit scopey horse, stands over a lot of ground. A lovely mover. He’s a bit different from the other Oeanfast foals. He’s not quite as muscled as them, especially last year’s colt (also by Encosta De Lago – he sold for $2.2 million to Patinack Farm). He’s a lovely loose, attractive colt. And the reports about his brother (named Shoot Through, and in work with Mick Price at Caulﬁeld) are very encouraging.”
ALINGHI’S BROTHER: Yarraman Park’s Encosta De Lago-Oceanfast colt, a brother to former champion Alinghi, is expected to be a top seller at Easter.
We realised that we needed to get more mares, and better mares. We put our balls on the line, and our luck changed when we went to Redoute’s (Choice) and Encosta De Lago at the right time,” Harry said. Of course, before that the Mitchells bought a major share in the young mare Oceanfast (Monde Bleu (GB)-Afﬂuent (IRE), by Shirley Heights (GB)), and then along came her champion ﬁlly
Alinghi (B f 2001, Encosta De Lago–Oceanfast). “We also were lucky to buy our mares when they weren’t that dear. We were buying nice, young Stakes-placed and city-winning young mares, even from WA, and those mares have done us proud. We are less on pedigree and more on ability, although you do need some pedigree,” he said. The Mitchells do a lot of work in
grading their foals at an early age. “I do a lot of mulling and thinking on which sales to send the horses. Arthur has his input – there is consensus, although it is really my area. It’s about knowing the horse and the sale,” Harry said. “I have taken horses to Easter when people have said that horse hasn’t enough pedigree for Easter, but we have walked out with a quarter of a million. It is about picking the right sale for the right horse. He’s got to be a beauty to go to Easter, as it can be a very unforgiving sale for the wrong horse. We sent a really nice Lonhro to Karaka (NZ) this year. I thought, ‘where does Lonhro ﬁt, he’s going OK but he’s not really a Magic Millions-type stallion,’ so I reckoned Karaka is the right place for him. “Also a lot of it is knowing the value of your horse. If we think we should get $100,000 for a horse, then we ﬁ x the reserve at around $65,000. If someone comes along and buys that horse, good luck to them.” The hard days at Yarraman are behind them. There were early years when paddocks housed only ﬁve foals. This year, Yarraman will raise 125 youngsters. They will take 18 select yearlings to Easter. The headline acts are two colts – a brother to Alinghi, and a brother to Snitzel. The Thoroughbred will be following these two magniﬁcent colts through their yearling sale preparation to sale day, in a special diary in our next issue, out in May. The Easter sale begins at the Inglis Newmarket saleyards, on April 5. The Yarraman way is for their yearlings to do an eight-week preparation (some vendors have their yearlings in for 12 weeks), so the Easter yearlings start their preparation in early February. “They spend time in the box and I try to give them a nice grassy yard to keep the variety up to them. They do daily walking and a lot of parade work. I don’t like lunging yearlings,” Harry said.
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DOWN THE TRACK
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF GARRY ISAAC
Late signs, early joy The Thoroughbred reported on the mating. The birth is another intriguing story. WORDS PETER RYAN
n Saturday, November 25, 2008, at 11.20pm the eight-year-old mare Tenets (Ch m 2000, Canny Lad-Miss Believe, by Kaoru Star) delivered a bay colt by Bel Esprit (B h 1999, Royal Academy (USA)-Bespoken, by Vain). The colt was born at Dengari Lodge in Tamworth, NSW, safe and sound 341 days after The Thoroughbred watched Bel Esprit cover Tenets at Victoria’s Eliza Park stud (see story in the Autumn 2008 Edition of The Thoroughbred or online at www.thethoroughbred.com.au). The warning signs that normally predict a foal’s pending birth came late. The mare did not ‘wax’ nor was her (milk) udder full at the time of foaling. Luckily at 10.30pm, Dengari Lodge’s Denise Isaac had decided to do a last check
THE CONCEPTION: The Thoroughbred’s report (Autumn 2008) of Bel Esprit serving Tenets.
of the mare before going to bed and noticed she was starting to pace around. She alerted her husband Garry Isaac, who was in bed having checked the mare himself at 9.45pm. Suddenly it was all happening. Less than an hour later the new foal was on the ground. Garry could not believe the way things transpired that night, but he was happy with the outcome. Tenets’ pregnancy had been normal. After mating with Bel Esprit, she tested positive after 45 days and soon after was home at Dengari Lodge. She had been vaccinated for equine inﬂuenza and weaned off her previous foal (also a colt by Bel Esprit) in March and spent most of the pregnancy in her paddock on a feed of hay, being fed up, as Isaac says, day and night with a nutritional feed. In early November, Tenets had her caslick (stitching to the vagina to help prevent abortion) removed in case the foal came remove early ea and she was moved from an outside paddock to fr the th Mare and Foal Paddock, which is under lights and wh close clos to the Isaacs’ house. Garry was as ready as G anyone could be for the colt’s any arrival. Most thoroughbreds arr are born between 10pm and an 4am, and he had been checking her every two ch hours day and night for h three weeks leading up to the birth so that he would
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MOTHER AND SON: Tenets puts her head in the feed bin while her Bel Esprit colt stays close.
not miss the event. Tenets, however, is proving to be an unpredictable broodmare. Last year’s Bel Esprit colt, her third foal, came a week late, and her second foal (by Over) was born three weeks early. This birth took place a day after the due date and it happened quickly. The ﬁrst thing Garry and Denise did when Tenets was labouring was to check the colt was presenting in the normal position: with front legs facing down, followed by the head. Then they just kept an eye on her as she delivered the foal on grass. Garry needed to intervene once when the colt’s shoulder became caught as it tried to enter the world. “Between contractions I had to push him back a little bit and twist him around,” said Isaac. “It took less than 20 minutes for her to foal down.” Within 15 minutes of the mare laying down the foal was born. The colt’s navel stump was washed with an antiseptic to guard against infection and Isaac broke the sack around the colt’s nose to clear the airways and left the mare to lie down after foaling. The mare did not split. The big-bodied colt stood up for the ﬁrst time an hour and a half later and was suckling
within two hours of being born. When all the work was completed the relieved breeders treated themselves to champagne to celebrate the new arrival. Isaac is happy with the look of the colt. “He’s a very strong foal,” he said. “He has great strength through the shoulders and hindquarters and his girth is very strong.” He laughed when he said the colt has Bel Esprit legs. “He is a bit crooked up front.” Some veterinary work has been completed on the colt’s contracted tendons because he was a little heavy, a common procedure for foals.” Isaac’s work continues to ensure the foal is at his best when presented at the sales. Morning and night he checks the foal to make sure he does not contract an infection or go off his feed. He is alert to any signs of diarrhoea as foals can dehydrate quickly. Early on, the most important requirement is that the colt stays on his mother, because if the horse goes off the suckle, Isaac will know something is wrong. For now, the signs are all positive. The colt will be weaned off Tenets at around three months and Isaac hopes he will be sold as a yearling in 2010. “I’m really pleased,” said Isaac.
AT THE BARRIER
Brave crew are the story behind the start Racegoers take for granted that the horses they have backed will line up safely in the barriers. PETER RYAN goes behind the gates to watch those responsible for getting races off to a good start. PHOTOS SEAN GARNSWORTHY
40 THE THOROUGHBRED
etting horses into a tight space can be a dangerous task and no one is more aware of that than those who do it for a living. A starter, assistant starter and about eight barrier attendants work at each race meeting on 363 days a year (Melbourne Cup carnival is an exception with 15 barrier attendants on hand at Flemington for racing’s biggest days), attempting to make all starts safe and fair.
Even on what appears to be a relatively benign day at Ballarat – and later a calm night at Moonee Valley – Racing Victoria’s starter Paul Didham, the son of Melbourne Cup winning jockey Midge Didham, is behind the gates watching horses closely, trying to read them, alert to those who appear agitated. A paramedic standing next to the barriers with a medical kit over his shoulder is a constant reminder of the risks attached. “There is not a lot of time to think when the horses do something wrong,” says Didham.
EYE TO EYE: Barrier attendant Mick Hurry is in a tight spot as he pulls a 500kg runner into his starting gate.
T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D 41
AT THE BARRIER
The action begins as soon as Didham arrives at the start at the Dowling Forest track. His voice is loud. His body language and pitch is assertive because the horses are on the track and only moments away from arriving at the gates. With the runners milling behind the gates, a quad bike heads off to check the track is clear. Years ago at a city track a running rail blocking a turn had not been fully removed before the horses jumped. Only the jockeys’ actions averted a calamity. Now, a last-minute check to make sure the track is clear is mandatory before all races. Time is of the essence. Recently a move has been made to cut down the time between when the ﬁrst horse is locked away until the jump. The theory is the less time horses spend in the barriers the less likely it is that something will go wrong. It doesn’t have to be said by anyone that the broadcasters and betting agencies want the loading of the horses to be efﬁcient and on time too. All
behind the gates – and the trainers who prepare the horses – know they are accountable. It lends a certain pressure to proceedings but no one complains. Before the horses arrive, Didham yells the names of the barrier attendants to match them with jockeys they are responsible for: “Andrew has Brereton, Errol – Williams, Jeff – Flaherty,” and so on down the line. Alternatively, for smaller ﬁelds, he will yell – as the horses are walking behind the barrier: “Brereton in one, Williams in two, Flaherty in three.” When that format is chosen, the barrier attendants adopt a version of the theory ‘if you’re closest to the broom, pick it up’ – they see a horse needing someone to lead it and grab it. A simple ‘Yes Paul’ through a walkie-talkie from the stewards notiﬁes Didham that it is time to load the horses. “Righto riders, let’s go,” he says. It’s time to switch up another gear. By this time barrier attendants already have hold of a lead and
‘ There is not a lot of time to think when the horses do something wrong.
UP THE LADDER: Starter Paul Didham, walkie-talkie at the ready, gets an elevated view of the starting scene as he prepares to send the ﬁeld on its way.
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are walking a horse around. The conversation between jockeys and attendants is professional. On Ballarat Cup day, before the open sprint handicap, jockey Michael Rodd tells barrier attendant Errol Gath his mount Mrs Waters is a bit moody: “Don’t grab her head. Just grab her tail,” says Rodd. When the horse is locked away, Gath follows the instructions to a tee. Mrs Waters jumps to the lead and is never headed. It is not a time to waste on niceties. If a jockey needs something he will speak up quickly. When Craig Williams needs some water to wet his whistle, a barrier attendant ﬁnds a bottle. When a new bridle is needed a barrier attendant goes to the duffel bag sitting on the barriers. It is ﬁlled with spare parts to cover all sorts of contingencies. The bridle is replaced in a ﬂash. It is the same, but slightly different, before each race. Everyone knows the score: work together. The respect between the two groups – attendants and jockeys – is real. Jockey Chris Symons has ridden in the United States as well as throughout Australia and has no hesitation praising the work the barrier brigade does in Victoria. “The barrier attendants here are fantastic,” he says. “They will get hurt before letting you get hurt.” Each attendant is different. Some are light and whippy. Others pudgy. Some crack gags. Others take on more serious expressions. But they don’t miss the kick when the starter’s instructions ﬂy. Didham spots a horse standing 40 metres in front of the barrier. “One parked around the front here boys,” he says. An attendant immediately trots off to help the stalled jockey and horse. Andrew Duff is an experienced barrier attendant from Seymour. His description of the job highlights the fearless qualities of those involved. “If they walked in every time, we wouldn’t be needed,” he says. “The ones that do play up present a challenge and it makes the job interesting.”
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE: Behind the gates – and in them, too – barrier attendants help jockeys prepare for a safe start.
Each attendant has his own style when lifting a horse in (that’s the attendants’ term for linking arms behind the horses’ backside and pushing them in). Some grab the breastplate, others the saddle. When they need to stand in with the horse as the gates open, they don’t hesitate. “You have got to be relaxed,” says Duff. “If you’re relaxed, then maybe the horse is relaxed. I guess if you’re standing up there, there is a reason for that.” Duff has an instinctive checklist as he jumps to support the rider: Does he really have to be there? If the horse is unruly, does he need to grab an ear or is the horse just wanting to play and need a bit of a pat? “You’re trying to read the horse,” he says. “And position
yourself so it is safe for the riders – little things like making sure your legs are back and glancing around to see how the other guys are going close to you. You must be switched on so that you are in the right position and that when you jump, you let go.” The process is so natural for Duff that the thought of not letting go as the ﬁeld jumps seems ludicrous to him.
eam means everything to the barrier attendants. Over a quick lunch shoved down between races they re-emphasise a mantra heard time and time again: they rely on each other and need to trust each other. If a horse becomes frightened or becomes tangled in the gates and begins to lash out, or if a jockey or attendant is stuck they need to know the man next to them is prepared to help without question. “If you’ve
got to get up on the barrier when a horse is going off, I guess it brings out some other qualities in you. Without doubt there are times when it is a risk business,” says Duff. When asked if they ever are scared doing their job, Mick Bath – a no-nonsense attendant with experience as a trainer – replies quickly: “When that happens, it’s time to get out of it.” Realism runs through these men’s veins. Didham, a former jockey, has done the job himself. “It takes a little bit of ticker to do it,” he says. “They’re all good horsemen. I have total respect for what these blokes do.” About 100 barrier attendants work in Victoria. All are accredited. Victoria was the ﬁrst state to introduce accreditation, a process that started in 2000 under the leadership of Terry Hearps, who is the supervisor
of barrier attendants, farriers and clerks of the course for Racing Victoria. Since 2000, numbers have been reduced from 200-odd, and those who remain are the best in the business. Training and a training manual help make reliable crews all over the state. In 2004, safety equipment was introduced – attendants wear skull caps and safety vests when loading horses and they have protective clothing for summer and winter, including sunglasses – and the training and accreditation program is to be rolled out nationally next year. It’s a far cry from a bygone era when some barrier attendants would ﬁll the spaces between races at the bar. Hearps is a third-generation horseman so he has been able to marry the technical with the innate to create a system the industry supports. He has no
doubt a shake-up was necessary. “I’ve seen mistakes over the years that linger with you. We’re dealing with horses, so you’re never going to not get hurt, but you can certainly reduce the risk by doing things the right way,” says Hearps. “It’s positive from jockeys and trainers on how we’re doing things.” All jockeys have managed an unruly horse. It’s never much fun for anyone. The rule of thumb says it’s better to keep the jockeys on the horse unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to jump off. For a start, says Didham, keeping them in the saddle saves time. “It’s part of reading the horse,” says Didham, then laughs. “I can tell you if the jockey is not conﬁdent he’ll be off before you have to tell them to get off.” It’s just one of the things you learn from Didham in the minutes spent with him between
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AT THE BARRIER
EASY DOES IT: Attendant Mick Bath guides a runner into the gate at Ballarat.
THE GEAR BEHIND THE BARRIERS A starter often uses equipment to get horses into the barriers and often trainers will ask for a speciﬁ c method or piece of gear to be used on a particular horse to ensure they walk into, or stay in, the barriers without drama. Flick whip A whip used to ﬂick at the hooves of horses to encourage them into the barrier. It has effectively replaced the stock whip, which is no longer used by barrier attendants to drive horses into the barriers.
Stallion chain Used to lead a horse into the barriers upon request, this gear is increasingly common in Victoria and almost always used in Europe. It is virtually a substitute for a bit which allows the handler greater control over the horse.
Barrier extension Rather than shutting gates after a horse moves into the barrier, barrier attendants will cordon off the back of the barrier behind the horse with a belt that is either secured with a buckle or Velcro.
Barrier blanket Covers a horse as it is led into the barriers and slides off as the gates open. Mainly used for ﬁllies and mares, it is designed to stop horses being spooked by the cold steel of the barrier uprights or the ledge barrier attendants climb on.
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leaving the mounting yard and arriving at the gates. He also tells: windy days are more likely to upset horses than rainy days; the Caulﬁeld Cup and Cox Plate are much more difﬁcult races to start than the Melbourne Cup because the horses jump in front of the crowd; two tractors need to be running before they load horses for a race that needs the barriers removed mid-race; and sometimes Didham will go home at the end of the day and not know the result of one race. As long as the starts go well, he’s happy. Sometimes trainers suggest to him before a race the best way to coax their horse into the gates, and it’s in everyone’s interests for trainers and the starter to communicate well. If a horse plays up and holds up the start, Didham might make a report that will force the trainer to give the horse a jump-out (an unofﬁcial trial held weekly) to prove it has corrected its bad manners at the barriers. Occasionally trainers will express displeasure to him when he cites their horses as needing further education, but dealing with that subtle pressure is part of Didham’s job. He has more than one interest to consider. He sometimes gives a two-year-old having its ﬁrst start slightly more leeway than a welltried seven-year-old, but he adopts an approach best described as tolerant but professional. There is a constant search for improvement in equipment. New barriers in place at an increasing number of country tracks around Victoria (Cranbourne and Wangaratta use them already) are designed to be less noisy. These barriers, produced by Simtrack, are quiet when they open, an eerie, slightly off-putting nonsound for long-time starters such as Didham. Just as importantly, the new structure eliminates the noise a horse makes when it is going off in a conﬁned space. The sound can create a knock-on effect, upsetting all other horses. For the barrier attendants, it’s like
wildﬁre: all of a sudden, there is danger everywhere. A barrier extension is sometimes used for large horses who become upset when a gate is closed behind them. The ill-fated Sunburnt Land (killed by a lightning strike in his spelling paddock last spring) needed one after an attack of claustrophobia. A ﬂick whip aimed at the soles of a horse’s foot is used to encourage some horses into the gates. Use of the stock whip is now banned. When Didham uses a ﬂick whip, he does so with an expert arm. It just takes a crack a metre behind the horse’s hooves to convince it to move forward. The processes in place and the tools at hand have not dulled the attendants’ instincts. It’s not the easiest job but it’s a life they like. Duff says he enjoys the job, even if, with two young children, the constant travel is sometimes tiring: “You switch on. It’s ﬁve minutes of serious business.”
he ﬁelds have been small all day but the Ballarat Cup (late last spring) has a ﬁeld of 15. The barriers for the race are right in front of the crowd. Techno music is blaring from marquees set up along the straight. Didham jumps from his car and says, “We’re going to turn that off.” It might sound like a question, but those around him know it’s not intended as one. Minutes later the music is off. With a bigger ﬁeld behind the gates, the clerks of the course help to lead the horses being loaded into outside barriers. The roll call begins. Mertens in one; Nolen in two; Dunn in three. Barrier attendants jog to claim horses and walk them in. Jockeys yell for assistance. A horse is patted, another’s ear is held. It all happens more quickly than you can imagine. Didham stands on his platform to one side forward of the gates. His assistant Neville Hearps stands behind the barriers and gives him the “all clear”. Didham pushes the button. The noise is deafening. They’re racing.
ENJOYING THE RIDE
PHOTO BY LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
Adventure of a lifetime Passion has no regard for age or time. WORDS BEN CASANELIA.
acing is many things to many people. For most at the coalface it’s business, to others a living, to some a way of life of which they know no other. Others, not reliant on horse ﬂesh to break their daily bread, call it an interest. Few glowingly refer to it as a “later-in-life adventure”. But that’s exactly how Deborah Hair views an involvement that started with a gift and developed into an obsession for this spirited 42-year-old. The adventure began in 2004 while Hair, an IT manager working for NSWTAB Ltd managing its data operations centre, received a share in a thoroughbred as a gift from a friend. From the instant she laid eyes on the “gift”, she knew an arm’s length view, or affectionate race-day pat, was not going to be enough. The question was: in what capacity could an IT manager, with no previous horse experience, involve herself in an industry few join later in life simply for enjoyment? “I was surﬁng the net one night and I saw this course where you could go and learn to do track work riding and I thought that would be fun,” Hair said, still smiling at the decision. After completing a six-week learn-to-ride course at Sydney’s Centennial Park, Hair enrolled in a track work riding course. While juggling full-time work with a part-time passion, she received a too-good-to-refuse job offer managing NSW and Victorian data centres in the wake of Tabcorp’s takeover of its NSW counterpart.
Having completed only three months of the 12-month riding course, Hair headed south. Before a box was unpacked, Melbourne’s newest resident enrolled in North Melbourne Institute of TAFE’s certiﬁcate in track riding. Twelve months later she emerged a certiﬁed track work rider. It was at that time Hair became acquainted with Yarra Glen trainer Shane Nichols. Having watched her gift – Just Clause (Ch m 2002, Weasel ClauseArkzaam, by Ark Regal) – win two country races in the care of Mornington trainer Tony Krushka, Hair was keen to bolster her stocks. With a chequebook in hand, and under the watchful eye of Nichols, she purchased a Testa Rossa ﬁlly at the 2006 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. One year later, Nichols had more than just a new ﬁlly on his books. “I didn’t need Deborah, she just started hanging around,” Nichols recalled. “She started turning up a few days, then most days and then virtually every day. All of a sudden she’s giving this a walk, or hosing one or towelling one down. Given she was coming from Carlton every morning I thought I better start paying her becauseI was ﬁnding her being around was freeing my time up a bit.” By default, Hair acquired herself a second job. It required a 4.15am wake-up, a one-hour drive to Yarra Glen, working two hours at the track before returning to Carlton in readiness for a long day at her inner-city ofﬁce. Nichols expressed what
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GETTING INVOLVED: Deborah Hair learned to ride to gain a hands-on understanding of the racing business.
many may have thought. “I thought she was a lunatic,” he said with a laugh. “Why would you want to start riding work when you’re, now I have to be careful here, well past your teen years? Most of the girls I have riding work for me have been riding since they were four, ﬁve and six years of age.” Hair had a simple answer. “I wanted to be involved in seeing what’s involved in training my horse,” she said. “I prefer to be anywhere with the horses than working in IT,” she said. “It’s a mental break from the rest of my life … my fun if you like. People will go out at night and do other things they like doing, but that’s my outlet and my fun.” So hands-on was his newest client that Nichols decided on ‘Deborah’ as the stable name for the Testa Rossa ﬁlly, later to be named La Rossa (Br f 2004, Testa Rossa-Sorella, by Euclase). In June last year, and after 12 months of a gruelling six-day-a-week routine, Nichols offered to help Hair pen another chapter in her racing adventure
by organising a switch to Lindsay Park’s Flemington operation. Having joined Australian advertising network giant Sensis late in 2007 – Hair has 60 employees under her control – 10-hour days were becoming the norm. While surroundings changed, little else did. “What I love about it is that you go to the races and there is every single type of person there that you could imagine and they’re all thrown in together and they get along,” she said. “A whole bunch of different people who’ve got something in common and can get past the barriers that are often between them. It’s the horse and they’re all focused on that one thing.” Having been denied the opportunity to ride La Rossa because of her temperamental nature, Hair still has clear goals ahead – ride the horses she races. “But the reality of living from day to day means I have to work,” she said. Reality is something many would argue Hair lost a grip of when she embarked on her “other life” adventure. It is a view expressed more than once by work colleagues. Her answer is always the same. “It’s a later-in-life adventure,” she said.
SALES & RACEDAY 9-12 MARCH 2009
RACEDAY 9 MARCH 2009 ADELAIDE | SOUTH AUSTRALIA | MAGIC MILLIONS SALES PTY LIMITED 1 Park Terrace, Morphettville SA 5043 (PO Box 100, Park Holme SA 5043) P: (08) 8297 8055 | F: (08) 8297 2136 | Int'l P. +61 8 8297 8055 | Int'l F. +61 8 8297 2136 Email: email@example.com | www.magicmillions.com.au
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RACING’S CLASS ACT
48 THE THOROUGHBRED
School’s in A young jockey’s education does not start and ﬁnish at the racetrack. The Thoroughbred sat in class with the teenagers as they were given expert tuition, on and off the horse. WORDS STEPHEN HOWELL PHOTOS MICHAEL WILLSON
THEY’RE RACING: Patrick Keane is ﬁ rst to go for the whip, while (from left) Jackson Matthews, Ben Martin and Darryl Horner sit quietly during the faux running of the Apprentices Cup at Racing Victoria’s HQ.
his was a photo ﬁnish that the riders had to get their heads in. Horses in a line with the apprentice jockeys giving their all, whips ﬂailing and arms pushing in the drive to gain a head or neck – and stand out in the photo that will feature prominently in their scrapbooks. The noise of hitting leather really was that of whips cracking. Gunshot-like. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! The pufﬁng and the yelling were merely background. Missing, however, was the thudding of galloping hooves, the essence of racing, and we have published the photo of the ﬁnal ‘Apprentices Cup’ for 2008 for all to see why. You won’t recognise the racetrack and you won’t recognise the horses. You might have seen, however, one or two of the young riders featuring at a country track near you. The track in Michael Willson’s photo? Actually, it is a room on the second ﬂoor at Racing Victoria Limited’s headquarters at 400 Epsom Road, up the hill from racing’s HQ, Flemington. The horses? They are Equitrainers. They are springloaded, powered by the arms and legs of the young riders.
The ﬂailing is over the top but not necessarily contrary to the new party line of jockeys cutting back on cutting strokes. Rather, it is what you would expect when a group of competitive kids – and that is exactly what these 17-18-yearolds are – are showing what they can do to impress a man with a camera and another with a notebook and tape recorder. After all, dealing with the media can be a vital part of a jockey’s life. And such showing-off on artiﬁcial horses that have no legs and go nowhere reinforces just how young these kids are. At work they have to be adults or, at least, mature teens as jockeys responsible for the safety of horses and humans in ﬁelds they ride in. All bar one of the eight in the class have ridden in races, and he (the diminutive Jake Duffy, who is just 35kg wringing wet) has competed comfortably in trials and was hoping to ride in his ﬁrst race just weeks after The Thoroughbred’s viewing. Because they are small, they look even younger and more fragile than other teens. But, like kids at any school, they are struggling to focus on their lessons on the last day of term. The Thoroughbred is sitting in on the ﬁrst-year apprentices’ class at RVL, run by former
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RACING’S CLASS ACT
jockey and trainer Ron Hall. It is the last class before the Christmas break and is the end of year one of a three-year course, which continues as part of an apprentice’s training, irrespective of the number of rides they have had and the wins they might have. The class runs in conjunction with their on-the-job training in stables run by the trainers to whom they are indentured. It is preceded by a theory course (Certiﬁcate 2 in Racing), and accompanied by certiﬁcates 3 and 4. We watched the last slaps on leather and the picking-up of bags and cases that signalled the two-day monthly session was over and the school year had ended. It followed a lesson on race tactics by former jockey and now race commentator/analyst, Alf Matthews, a regular instructor alongside those who teach diet and psychology and business and media. The X-factor depends on the individual. Hall, a decade in this job, is a member of one of racing’s bestknown families. “I’m (Melbourne Cup-winning jockey) Greg’s brother, (leading apprentice jockey) Nick’s uncle, (Melbourne Cup-winning trainer) David’s cousin,” is how he puts it. In this job, Ron Hall takes charge – overall and of the mechanicalhorse sessions – with expert classroom tuition from Matthews and others, including Fiona Sutherland (nutrition), Lisa Stevens (psychology), members of ERA (Monash University’s Exercise Research Australia), John Birse (business and ﬁnancial management), Rob Gaylard (media and communication), steward James Williams and André Kassay, who provides racing patterns and speed maps for stewards. Champion jockeys such as Damien Oliver and Craig Williams, and Victorian Institute of Sport athletes call in from time to time to help out. Because of pre-screening, the rookie class is small, less than half the number of previous years, with
WATCH THIS SPACE: First-year apprentices (from left) Jake Duffy, Patrick Keane, Jacob Rule, Ashley Thompson, Ben Martin and Darryl Horner look on as former jockey Alf Matthews points out, on a race replay, where a run has opened up.
seven Victorians and a Tasmanian (Darryl Horner) now the island state’s racing has come under the RVL’s teaching umbrella. The students come in once a month, on a Monday night, ready to start courses at 8am on Tuesday and Wednesday, and go back to their trainer-masters late Wednesday afternoon – those with licences can drive, others take buses or trains. They sleep in four-bed dormitories near their classroom both nights, a supervisor on hand at all times. (Third-year students stay only one night.) Finishing up their ﬁrst year were Duffy (apprenticed to Vince Nolen at Benalla), Patrick Keane (Doug Harrison, Cranbourne), Ben Martin (Gerald Egan, Mansﬁeld), Jackson Matthews (Chris Hyland, Cranbourne; after being with Jarrod McLean, Warrnambool), Courtney Pace (Lee Hope, Kilmore; now on loan to Rod Symons at Bendigo), Jacob Rule (Steve Cunningham, Flemington, with a period on loan to Darren Weir, Ballarat), Ashley Thompson (Jodie Thompson, Kilmore) and the Tasmanian Horner, apprenticed to Barry Barnes.
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A new group starts each February, and Hall said there were 200 applications for places in 2009, with eight expected to get the nod. “It’s Catch-22,” he said of picking potential apprentices, who have to be at least 16. “They’ve got to be mature enough, but you’ve got to be careful that they’re not going to grow too much and get too heavy. It can take one, two or three years, but all eventually get their licence.”
I do my utmost to teach them how to get into the best possible position the easiest way. ALF MATTHEWS
Some such as Blake Shinn, Nick Ryan, Sebastian Murphy and Nick Hall start to make their name in race riding during their certiﬁcate course. Others ride with less and, sometimes, almost no success in a career that has a ﬂuid use-by date. Weight is the constant enemy of all jockeys, and already the most mature of the 2008 group, Courtney Pace, is ﬁghting to stay in the saddle. She has been out since October 4 after dislocating her shoulder in a fall at trackwork on the morning of the Gunbower Cup meeting – she
was booked to have six rides. She has had her indentures transferred from Hope to Symons, enabling her to go home to Bendigo where her father, Arthur Pace, trains. She hopes that living at home will help her keep her weight around 5354kg for as long as possible. At 19, she is older, has more riding experience than her classmates and is the most articulate of the group. This is clearly seen in Alf Matthews’ lesson, when the no-nonsense mentor has to cajole, yell and, in one case, send a student outside, to retain the others’ interest. The offender, much to his and a couple of the other boys’ amusement, farted. Matthews, interrupting showing horses’ high knee actions as he pointed out on television potential wet-trackers, told the offender he had crossed the line. Order and odour restored, the remainder struggled through the session, “watched” from the wall of the classroom by a photo of Patrick Payne – in the photo he is the size of Duffy, but after completing his apprenticeship he rode as a highweight until he was forced to turn, brieﬂy, to jumps racing. He is now, aged 33, a successful trainer. While accepting that, in some ways, it must be a come-down for the young riders to go back to school while working full-time in stables, Hall and Matthews point
The view from the saddle Apprenticed to Rod Symons, Bendigo Courtney Pace has wanted to be a jockey since she began riding at 10, an ambition that gained weight at 16 when she joined the picnic circuit, ﬁnished her education to Year 12 and completed her ﬁrst Certiﬁcate in Racing course. She had 29 winners at the picnics from 181 rides, bowing out on February 16 last year with a double at Buchan. A month earlier, she had four winners at a Dederang meeting. As an apprentice with Kilmore trainer Lee Hope at the professionals, Pace has had ﬁve wins and eight thirds in only 17 rides. She is recovering from a fall at trackwork on October 4 last year that left her with a dislocated right shoulder – her only mount before resuming trackwork for Rod Symons at Bendigo on December 29 was to sit on one of the Equi-trainer mechanical horses during apprentice classes. Pace has gone home on loan to Symons at Bendigo, where her father trains, in a bid to hold her weight around the 54kg mark. She described Hope, who set 2007-08 Sydney premiership winner Blake Shinn on the path to success, as quite a master. “He gave me a great hand. He actually put me on my ﬁrst winner (at her ﬁrst ride, Finlayson) at the professionals,” she said of Hope. Finlayson beat 12 others over 1400 metres at Cranbourne on May 9. “It was a bog track. I went pretty wide. “You always set pretty high goals and my main aim is one day to ride at metropolitan tracks, but you’ve got to crawl before you can walk,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll work our way
WINNERS ARE GRINNERS: Courtney Pace, on Finlayson, is happy with her ﬁ rst win at the ‘pros’.
up.“ There’s no bigger thrill than riding in races. I just love it. It’s a great thing, being amongst other horses in a race and being able to ride an animal that gives an explosive feel.” Pace, who appeared the most content of her group to be back in a classroom, said: “There’s more to being a jockey than just riding, and all the lectures we have, from diet, nutrition to the racetrack, cover the whole range of aspects you need to know.” Pace is still having physiotherapy, and hopes to resume race riding in February.
JACKSON MATTHEWS, 17 Apprenticed to Chris Hyland, Cranbourne Jackson Matthews’ 2009 began brilliantly with a double at Terang to take his winning tally to six from just 60 rides – the ﬁrst two (Baby Esme at Mornington and Sharp Stanley at Swan Hill) having come in November. One of the New Year’s Day winners was Fast And Legal in the Brenton Primmer Maiden Plate for Warrnambool trainer Jarrod McLean, to whom Matthews was apprenticed until going to Chris Hyland (on loan before he was able to negotiate a transfer). The win was a stark reminder of the dangers
Matthews and other riders can face – Primmer, for whom the race was named, is recovering from severe head injuries received in a fall when he was an apprentice, at Warrnambool in September 2007. Adelaide-raised Matthews said his father, a cousin of Alf Matthews (a former jockey and now one of Racing Victoria’s apprentice tutors) “was a bit of a punter so I used to go down to the track every Saturday at Cheltenham”. “I ﬁnished Year 10 at St Michael’s College in Adelaide, (did) a bit of stable stuff at Morphettville (with trainer Stuart Gower) and was sent over to Naracoorte (in eastern South Australia) with Sue Jaensch. She taught me how to ride. “She found me a trainer (McLean) at Warrnambool and he got me up to race riding and trials. I felt I couldn’t get enough race experience there – there were no other jockeys to help me – so that’s why I went to Cranbourne with Chris. “I ride about six for him every morning, but I ride a bit of outside work, a few for Robbie Laing … it keeps me going.” Matthews had his ﬁrst ride in a race on the McLeantrained Twitch In Time at the ’Bool on August 31. “I was all right until I got on the horse in the mounting yard, when I started to get a bit nervous,” he said. “As soon as I came around to the gates, I was all right. He jumped and sat on the fence and ran fourth. It was a wet track. Everything was (winning) out wide, but I couldn’t get out there.” How did that ﬁrst win on Babe Esme feel? “Oh sensational, it was great,” he said. “It was a pickup ride for (Mornington trainer) Peter
White. I was down there to ride in the next race and (another apprentice) Duncan Miller got hurt and I picked up the ride. “It drew gate 1. He (White) said to ‘box seat’ it. It had the perfect run, but probably got held up a little bit in the straight. I peeled around off their heels, and took a little gap ... I was shocked. It didn’t really come to me until I got back in the jocks’ room and everyone was shaking my hand, you know.“
ASHLEY THOMPSON, 17 Apprenticed to his mother, Jody Thompson, at Kilmore Although Ashley Thompson’s family has always been in racing, he said that, early doors, he wasn’t keen. “But I got bitten by the bug as I grew up and had a bit more to do with horses,” he said. “My mother’s a trainer, my father’s a trainer, grandpa (Norm Thompson) trains, my auntie (Renee Thompson) trains. My dad (David O’Prey) trains at Wodonga. “My uncle (the late Ricky Thompson), my two aunties (Renee and Katie Thompson) rode at the picnics. Mum rode at the professionals and so did my dad. “Me and Mum live at Kilmore. I left school at end of Year 10, so I was 15 and have just ridden trackwork ever since then. I started my apprenticeship at the start of this year, and this course.” Thompson’s ﬁrst race ride was in September – Nugget Of Gold for Shannon Hope at Seymour. “It led them up and ran a nice fourth,’’ the apprentice said. “It was grouse. I was pretty happy with my ride – it wasn’t too bad, I think. It was over a mile (1612 metres).” Thompson is yet to ride a winner. “Not yet,” he said. “I hope it’s not too far away. I’ve had a few close ones.”
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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SLICKPIX
COURTNEY PACE, 19
RACING’S CLASS ACT
out that what they learn should hurry them on to success in the job they can’t wait to do well. Getting 16-17-year-olds to realise that is easier said than done. Few had done their homework (to provide examples of wet-trackers in races) for Matthews to show on the classroom’s television and his computer, and in wishing them the best for the Christmas-New Year break he reminded them to have them prepared for the ﬁrst lesson of their second year. Or else! He had more success in pointing out positives and negatives of the students’ race and trial rides, especially when he had the chance to do it individually. “I teach race tactics,” he says. “I do my utmost to teach them how to get into the best possible position the easiest way. I go through a list of criteria – weights, distances, times, tempo – and get them to understand when you can cover ground, when you can’t cover ground. Those aspects of racing …” He stresses the importance of getting a horse to relax and tells his class “knowing how – in the ﬁrst 100 yards – to get in the best possible position is the difference between a good and a bad jockey,” and he points out what it can cost going wide around turns. He has three perfect examples to show how to ride a horse to win, all of the same horse and jockey – Glen Boss on Makybe Diva in her three Melbourne Cup wins (2003-05). Matthews’ three words are ‘patience’, ‘smoothness’ and ‘composure’, not attributes usually associated with teenagers. And his warning is: “If they’re in too much of a hurry and get there too quickly, they just get carved apart.” The classes are just part of the path to jockeyship. They are an adjunct to learning the right way on the job at trackwork and in trials and races, starting in the country and working into the metropolitan region as Shinn, Ryan, Murphy and Hall did. Ryan is clearly a favourite with Matthews, despite a long struggle
THE WHIP HAND: School head Ron Hall offers advice to tiny apprentice Jake Duffy, aboard Reset, one of the school’s mechanical horses.
with weight that has derailed his career more than once. “He sat and observed everything,” the teacher said. “He absorbed. He was a wonderful student, and a wonderful rider.” Rob Gaylard said he used to ask Ryan and Shinn if they were married, or engaged at least, because they always sat together in classes while they were riding up the jockey ranks to the top – Ryan, then aged 18, won the 2004-05 metropolitan jockeys’ premiership with 83 wins, by 15 from runnerup Shinn, who reversed the order in the same season’s Scobie Breasley Medal (awarded on stewards’ votes for best rides). Gaylard has been lecturing the young riders for about ﬁve years, but 2008 was the ﬁrst time he took ﬁrst-year apprentices. He adds communicating and networking to media communications in describing his lessons, and includes bank managers and real estate agents as subjects as well as journalists, trainers and owners. He says the class’ retention rate is “not real good after lunchtime
They have to demonstrate that they have balance and control and rhythm. RON HALL
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because they’re up at sparrow’s”, but only two over the years have failed his assessment. He doesn’t use the word exam. “The ﬁrst thing I get to them is how the media can make or break you,” says Gaylard, a course and television interviewer. “If you don’t want to take the media on board and understand how it operates, you’ll fail. “I tell how the media is structured and how it works so they understand it. More than that ... how to speak to owners, how to walk up in the mounting yard and introduce themselves to people they don’t know. I teach them to be salesmen and saleswomen as well. “I had a young kid the other day – not one of the ﬁrst-year class – he rode a horse for (big owner) Nick Moraitis for the ﬁrst time. I keep saying to them if you get an owner like that, or a Gerry Ryan or someone like that for the ﬁrst time and you get on and you win, make sure you send them a personal note or ring them. Sell yourself. He (Moraitis) sent him back a cheque for $1000. “The kid said, ‘Rob, I thought you were full of shit,’ but he said, ‘Look at this,’ and he showed it to me. I said OK, send him another letter back and tell him what you’re going to do with it.” Letter No. 2 said how much the young jockey appreciated the “sling” and that he had just bought a car and would use the money to pay the insurance. Gaylard, who owns and races horses, tells the apprentices they
can’t make excuses to owners if they ride a bad race. “If you come back and bullshit to me, I’m not going to put you on again,” he says. “But if you be honest with me and say, ‘Rob I’ve stuffed up,’ it’s OK. They’ve got to learn to be people managers.” The teachers are paid for their time, but Gaylard says the best reward he has had came in November with Shinn’s Melbourne Cup win on Viewed for trainer Bart Cummings. “Blake came up to me and said, ‘Rob, what do I need to remember?’ I said, ‘Talk from here (pointing to his heart). If you stuff up, just keep going.’ “A few days later (at Flemington) he came up and said, ‘I often sat in school and said what a crock this is, but you’re spot on. Unfortunately, I might have waited a bit late, but now I know.’ He walked 10 paces away, turned and said, ‘I mean it. Thank you, mate.’ That meant more to me than anything in the world.”
he mechanical horses are not the real thing, but they are the best part of going back to school for young riders. “We do a lot of training on these,” Ron Hall says, pointing to the spring-loaded handful and another pair of electric-powered nags, one called Reset in appreciation of owner Lloyd Williams, who gave it to the apprentices’ school. (Reset had ﬁve wins in ﬁve starts for Williams, including two at Group 1, before being sold for a reported $20 million-plus to stand at stud.) “They have to do their race riding criteria before they can go to trials – that’s just understanding the rules and regulations they need to know,” Hall says. “And they have to demonstrate that they have balance and control and rhythm on these (mechanical horses, with at least the ball of the foot in the stirrup, not the toe as some senior jockeys use). Then they go to the trials and are assessed by the stewards. “They have 20 trials, then the last couple they have to do are
under race conditions. They have to wear their silks and race saddle and boots and they have to do two over 1200 metres at least so they get used to (the gear). The ﬁrst time they jump on a horse they ﬁnd they’re quite slippery… the 1200 is so stewards can have a look over a bit of a trip, rather than jumping out over 800 and just scamper along.” It is the stewards who pass the young riders, but Hall goes along to watch and advise. “At Cranbourne, you might have 25 trials in a day and there’ll be trainers looking for someone to ride their horses, so you can tell them what apprentices are there and what level they’re at.” The young riders come to Hall’s school only once a month, having done the ﬁrst part of their certiﬁcate course through TAFE. They ﬁnish with a nationally accredited Certiﬁcate 4 in Racing – they can’t get their jockey’s licence without it. Other states have similar courses. Hall does not take his students to trackwork at Flemington during class “for the simple reason, if you’ve got a green apprentice and we take them to Flemington and he gets injured, well you’re without your worker and we’re responsible for him getting hurt … we do run a couple of track courses early in their ﬁrst year. We take them to Pakenham or Yarra Glen and have got horses we use there that are very, very quiet and we put through different routines to see where they are at’’. Apprentice school attendance is compulsory. “It’s regardless if they’ve got rides wherever,” says Hall. “There’s racing seven days a week, trials on different days, jumpouts on different days and different tracks, so you’re going to impact on someone. But at the end of the three years of training, did those three years and missing out on rides here and there impact on Blake Shinn’s career, or did the training help him to get to where he’s at?” The question is rhetorical.
Top riders remember when … CLARE LINDOP
the gates. It was way back last, railed up and got home good. If you were the trainer or the owner you would have thought you were pretty unlucky.” Rawiller’s ﬁrst win was on Friendless Babe, for his master Allen Browell, in a 1200m race for ﬁllies and mares at Kyneton on January 14, 1995. “I won my ﬁrst three rides on her – at my ﬁfth, 10th and 15th rides,” he said.
South Australia’s leading rider and winner of last year’s Victoria Derby on Rebel Raider. Clare Lindop ﬁnished her apprentice schooling in Victoria when indentured to Frank Byrne at Warrnambool and Jack Barling at Hamilton before riding in Adelaide She had her ﬁrst ride at the Warrnambool carnival in May 2, 1995, on one of Byrne’s horses, Arctic Mittens ($51) – she ﬁnished 10th of 12 runners in a 1200m Maiden. “I couldn’t believe how fast it was,” she said of the race. “In those days we only had to ride in ﬁve jumpouts (in front of stewards before getting a licence). Oh, my God, now it’s 20 trials and there’s access to video. “I’d never seen myself ride (before watching the race replay). I imagined myself like Damien Oliver, but I stood out like a sore thumb. ‘That’s not me,’ I thought. ‘That’s terrible.’” Her ﬁrst win was on Opinions Differ (for Barling, although she was still apprenticed to Byrne at the time) at Dunkeld on November 18, 1995. “My dad (Clive) drove me to Dunkeld. I talked him into it – I had to go back (to Warrnambool) for afternoon stables. “I drew barrier three, landed in the box seat accidentally, I was getting shuttled back a bit, but they rolled off on the turn – Dunkeld’s tight – and I think I went around one horse. It was like the copybook win, but it wasn’t really me – the horse just went whoosh, and won.”
GLEN BOSS DERBY DELIGHT: Clare Lindop acknowledges the cheers of the huge Flemington crowd after her Victoria Derby win on Rebel Raider.
BRAD RAWILLER Weekend Hussler’s rider in his six Group 1 wins and one of Australia’s most proliﬁc winners in the past few seasons Brad Rawiller went to apprentice classes in his home town Bendigo, in Wangaratta (where former top jockeys Kevin Mitchell, Gary Willetts and Alan Trevena were among his teachers) and then in Melbourne (under David Charles, who works for Racing Victoria and still helps out school head Ron Hall). “My ﬁrst race ride was on Blupanche at Kerang on Boxing Day (1994),” Rawiller said. “It ran last. It was actually a pickup ride (and records show it was ninth of 10 runners in a 1100m Maiden, and wrongly have Brad’s brother Todd as the jockey). My ﬁrst ride, on the same day, was to have been Truth Be Known. It ran ﬁfth. “I don’t remember much about Blupanche, but I did lose my way a bit around the corner. And the second ride (Truth Be Known), I lost my iron out of
Makybe Diva’s partner in her three Melbourne Cup wins (2003-05) and one of Australia’s leading Group 1 jockeys Glen Boss said he went to apprentices’ school in Queensland, but “not on the scale it is now – it was run by the stewards, (former jockey) Graeme Ireland was a speaker and, all-up, I would have gone about a dozen times”. He can’t remember the name of his ﬁrst ride but knows it ran third at Gympie. He can recall his ﬁrst win, on only his second day of riding, also at Gympie. The horse was Basiteka. “I was more excited than nervous,” he said. “I remember how quick it went. It was all over in what seemed to be a heartbeat. The barriers opened and all of a sudden you were past the winning post. “I was rapt. I recall coming back to the enclosure. My family was there, it was a really special time.” His advice to new jockeys is in two parts: to set the bar high to ensure you work hard; and to fall in love with the job because “you’ve got to have passion”.
THE THOROUGHBRED 53
R mance of the turf
Thirty-something trainer Chris Waller and his model wife Stephanie have not looked back since moving to Rosehill from New Zealand in 2000 after success on previous ﬂying visits. They talked to CHRISTIAN NICOLUSSI about their life on and off the track as Chris has moved up the Sydney premiership ladder and, last autumn, trained his ﬁrst Group 1 winner, Triple Honour, in the Doncaster Handicap, Randwick’s major ‘mile’ race. PHOTO MICHAEL WILLSON
54 THE THOROUGHBRED
STABLE LIFE: Stephanie and Chris Waller at Chris’s Rosehill stables. “I tried coming down to work in the early days, but we realised it’s better to keep things separate,” Stephanie said.
How did the pair of you meet? Stephanie: We actually went to high school together but didn't know each other that well. It was later when I was singing in a band at the Otaki races (near Wellington) that we were re-introduced. What was the attraction? Chris: It would have been my good looks. S: Yeah (rolling her eyes). And you were attracted to my brains. C: And your singing.
What is the most romantic thing Chris has done for you? S: It was probably when we got engaged. I was out singing in the band and he came past my parents’ house and arranged for the engagement ring to be placed under my pillow. We were still living at home with our parents at the time. C: That wasn’t it. S: Well, what do you reckon it was? C: I don't know. What about when we went away for one of
our anniversaries. That was better, wasn’t it? S: He told me to pack my bags and said we were going away somewhere local. C: We were going to Hayman Island. There was a cyclone up in Queensland and I knew we were about to ﬂy straight into a tropical cyclone. S: I said, ‘Lucky we're not ﬂying to Hayman Island’ – that's my favourite place. He said, ‘Well, actually, we are.’ But it ended up being beautiful.
What was your knowledge of horses before meeting Chris? S: Not much. We used to go to the races with my father – he used to own a few horses – but that was about it. And my knowledge of horses now ... well, I’ll leave that up to Chris. I’ll also leave the 3am starts to him. Does it help or hinder having a wife not totally involved in the race game? C: It’s much easier. I look forward to going home because
THE THOROUGHBRED 55
I totally switch off. I turn the phone off at 6pm and don't talk about racing. It’s good to be able to do that, otherwise I’d go mad. S: I tried coming down to work at the stables in the early days, but we realised it’s better to keep things separate.
With Stephanie being a model, has it made it easier attracting clients? C: It deﬁ nitely helps (laughs). S: I’m a very social person and love going to the races and being with the owners, which I think really helps.
Is Chris a good loser? S: He’s no different win, lose or draw. Once he’s done he gets on with it. He never sits at home after the races and says to himself, ‘What could have happened or should have happened’. C: Once my job is over there is nothing I can do. It all comes down to preparation and making sure everything is done.
Bob Ingham spent $18 million on 24 yearlings last Easter and has given you his horses to train after selling his giant Woodlands racing and breeding business to the Darley empire. How important is having a big owner such as Ingham behind you? C: I’m proud to have those owners on board. Names like Gerry Harvey, Nick Moraitis in the early days, the Inghams, Gerard Peterson from New Zealand. I’m fortunate to have those owners with me. I liken it to having a car park full of BMWs – you only have the best.
‘ We don’t need to get bigger, but if our owners want to grow we’ll be there to help.
What brought you to Australia? C: For me it was opportunity. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t have any ties. Financially we had no mortgage and no children. We were both with our parents. S: I’m close to my family and that was a worry. When we ﬁrst moved over, we were sleeping on a ﬂoor and didn’t have much money. But now I love it. It was good for me because there wasn’t a great deal of modelling work in Foxton (between Palmerston North and Wellington in New Zealand’s north island). There are only 3000 people there. C: Stephanie’s income was very valuable to start with, even though we didn’t have many overheads. I’d been training three or four years and when I came over I still kept 30 horses in New Zealand and about 10 here. As we got more into it we started to see a bit of potential.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MARTIN RACING
RACE DAY: The Wallers at the track. “I love going to the races and being with the owners,” says Stephanie.
Do you remember your ﬁrst winner? C: The ﬁrst winner in Australia was at Wyong with a horse called Party Belle (b m 1993, Oregon (USA)-Garden Party (NZ), by Grosvenor (NZ)), who won on (1998) Wyong Cup Day. It was (jockey) Opie Bosson’s ﬁrst win in Australia as well. When I decided to move over here, our ﬁrst
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winner was a horse called Our Cracker (b g 1993, Ashabit (GB)Young Hippie (NZ), by Godavari (Ire), at Rosehill (in February 2000). I’ve had good experiences when I really needed it. It wasn’t until I shut my stables in New Zealand four years ago that I felt the move was complete. And things have gone from strength to strength ever since.
You have up to 70 horses in work now, will you expand in the coming years? S: I don’t think it’s possible. He’s pretty busy now. C: If you had asked me two years ago if I could have trained more than 40 horses, I would have said, ‘You can’t.’ But being around the likes of Mr Ingham, he’s told me there are systems you can put in place to make it work. You only have to look at the way Mrs (Gai) Waterhouse (Sydney’s premier trainer) operates. She’s getting better and has huge numbers. It depends on what the owners want. We don’t need to get bigger, but if our owners want to grow we’ll be there to help. Would you prefer being able to buy a few horses at the sales, or a free holiday? S: Holiday. C’mon, say holiday. C: We don't get a lot of time off and it’s hard to get away. S: So a holiday would be good (nodding). C: If I was offered a Group 1 horse, I know what I'd be taking.
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Phar Lap’ s Kentucky connection I Phar Lap’s reputation extends far beyond our shores, and his famous deeds are only part of the tale. The legacy of his dam Entreaty lives on through the deeds of some of the best racehorses in Australia and New Zealand. WORDS DANNY POWER.
58 THE THOROUGHBRED
t is ﬁtting that the bloodlines of Australia’s greatest racehorse Phar Lap (Ch g 1926, Night Raid (GB)-Entreaty, by Winkie (GB)) lie beneath some of the ﬁ nest bluegrass on North America’s famed Gainesway Farm, only a few kilometres north-east of Lexington, Kentucky, along the Paris Pike.
PHAR LAP: The champion wins the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in 1931 at his last run before going to the US, where he died after winning the Agua Caliente Handicap in New Mexico. Jockey Jim Pike is wearing the silks of owner David Davis (red with green hoop sleeves and black cap) rather than those of trainer Harry Telford (red with black and white hoop sleeves and red cap).
PHOTO REPRODUCED COURTESY OF COPYRIGHT EQUUS MARKETING
Stakes-winning ﬁlly Fall Wind (F, 1955, Grand Admiral–Windfall, by Sir Gallahad). Unfortunately, Fall Wind produced only two moderate winners from ﬁve foals. Four Freedoms, with 165 foals from 14 crops, sired some capable and durable handicappers in his own image who were proliﬁc winners, including 10 Listed Stakes winners, but no Graded (Group) Stakes winners. You won’t see his name bob up in many modern pedigrees. (The 700-hectare Gainesway Farm is an American breeding icon. It is now under the control of South African Graham Beck, who bought the famous property from John Gaines – the man credited with devising the Breeders’ Cup – in 1989. Beck and his son Antony have upheld the tradition and commercial viability of this historic farm.)
PHOTO BY LACHLAN CUNNINGHAM (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
Some of the world’s famous stallions have strutted along the tree-lined lanes of this historic thoroughbred breeding nursery, even long before the renowned name of Gainesway had been nailed to its front gate. The list includes Blushing Groom, Bold Bidder, Irish River, Lyphard, Vaguely Noble, Riverman, Mahmoud and Broomstick. Legendary mares such as La Troienne, Regret and Silver Spoon nurtured their foals in the lush paddocks. Most of those horses are buried at Gainesway, in distinctly marked graves with white headstones reminiscent of the memorials of soldiers lost in war. Also buried on the property, in graves unmarked and places unknown, are Phar Lap’s sister Nea Lap and her outstanding multiple Grade 1-winning son Four Freedoms (by Peace Chance), who stood at stud at Gainesway for 13 years until his death in 1957, when part of it was named Greentree Farm. Nea Lap, born in 1927, a year after Phar Lap, was Entreaty’s third foal. She won four of 26 starts, in New Zealand, over 1600m to 2000m, before she was sold to one of the world’s richest men, John Hay “Jock” Whitney in North America. The Whitney family dominated racing from their Kentucky base from 1915 to the 1980s. Jock Whitney owned Mare’s Nest Farm, where Nea Lap lived out her life; Jock and his sister Joan also ran Greentree Farm and the Greentree Stable for their mother Helen Hay Whitney; a cousin, Cornelius Whitney, controlled the neighbouring Whitney Farm, which he inherited from his father, Harry Payne Whitney, in 1930. Most of the Mare’s Nest, Greentree and Whitney farms were swallowed up by Gainesway in 1966 when the stud – which made its name as a standardbred nursery in New Jersey before making the move to Kentucky – sold its
ust as Entreaty, out of the blue, was able to produce a horse of freakish ability in Phar Lap but nothing else to compare with his talent, her descendants have that same innate talent to leave a champion seemingly from nowhere, such as Australian Horse of the Year winners Sunline and Research, the 1971 Golden Slipper winner Fairy Walk, the outstanding Australian galloper Monte Carlo, winner of the 1956 AJC Derby and Victoria Derby double, and the 1946 Great Northern Oaks winner Swingalong. Sunline is a prime example. Her dam Songline (by Western Symphony) has had eight foals, but only one other winner – Sunline’s brother Flaring Sun who won a maiden at Seymour in 13 starts. Sunline and Flaring Sun are the only surviving progeny of the Desert SunSongline union. Entreaty, who was unplaced in only one start, left 12 foals – six colts and six ﬁllies – in a breeding career that spanned 18 years. She began her stud career at Alexander Roberts’ Seadown
MARCHING: The latest Stakes winner from the Raphis line of the Phar Lap family
original Kentucky property for housing development. It sought a new farm in the world famous breeding district. Nea Lap produced her ﬁrst foal at Mare’s Nest Farm in 1935, a ﬁlly by resident champion sire The Porter (by Sweep), named Floor Maid. Nea Lap produced another ﬁlly, The Wind, also by The Porter, in 1936, but it wasn’t until 1940, following a mating to Peace Chance (by Chance Shot), when she produced a brown colt, would Phar Lap’s sister make an impact on American racing. The colt, named Four Freedoms, would go on to win 10 of 48 starts, including three of America’s most important handicaps – the Grade 1 Brooklyn Handicap (2000m), at Belmont in New York (a leg of what was known as the “Handicap Triple
Crown”); the Grade 1 Widener Handicap (2000m), at Hialeah Park in Miami; and the Grade 3 Tropical Park Handicap (1800m), at Calder Park in Florida. In all, Nea Lap produced nine foals, six colts and three ﬁllies. Six of them won races, but none amounted to anywhere near the class of Four Freedoms. Three of her sons were exported to England where they won over jumps. Nea Lap’s inﬂuence has petered out – it was fading even before her death in 1946. None of her three daughters produced a Stakes winner, although The Wind’s daughter Windfall left the smart
‘ Four Freedoms
would go on to win three of America’s most important handicaps.
THE THOROUGHBRED 59
Stud, near Timaru. She was sold in 1931 after Roberts’ death, to Fred Armstrong, of Ilam Stud, near Christchurch, who continued the tradition of sending the mare to Night Raid (B h 1918, Radium (GB)-Sentiment (GB), by Spearmint (GB)), the sire of her ﬁrst eight foals. Some of Phar Lap’s New Zealand-based sisters, although of little consequence on the racetrack, have had a much more on-going signiﬁcant inﬂuence than the exported Nea Lap, and the legacy of their dam continues to live on through some of Australia and New Zealand’s best racehorses. Entreaty is the ancestress of Australian and New Zealand horses who have won 234 Stakes races – 56 of those are Group 1 races, and 13 of them were won by Phar Lap, who alone won an incredible 36 Stakes races. Another 13 Group 1s were courtesy of Sunline. The most signiﬁcant line to Entreaty comes through her 1934 daughter Raphis, the last
‘ The most
signiﬁcant line to Entreaty comes through her 1934 daughter Raphis.
PHOTO BY BRUNO CANNATELLI
ACTIVATION: The former top-class galloper is a son of Coogee Walk, who traces back to Phar Lap’s sister Raphis.
of her eight consecutive foals by Night Raid. Raphis, herself the dam of three Stakes winners – and one of three daughters of Entreaty to produce a Stakes winner – has descendants who have won 111 Stakes races, including 20 Group 1 wins. Raphis produced the 1946 Great Northern Oaks winner Swingalong (M 1942, by Battle Song (GB)); the very good handicap stayer Count Cyrano (C 1945, by Battle Song (GB)), winner of the 1948 AJC The Metropolitan Handicap; and the precocious John O’London (C 1940, by Solicitor General (GB)), who won the important 2YO scamper at
Riccarton, the Champagne Stakes. Swingalong, and another daughter Bobalong, have carried the line into modern times through their descendants Day Tripper (Br m 1964, Bourbon Prince (USA)-Sway, by Lucky Bag (GB) and Lilting (M 1960, Messmate (GB)-Del Monte, by Lucky Bag (GB)). The Day Tripper line produced 1988-89 Australian Horse of the Year Research (B m 1985, Imperial Prince (IRE)-Outing, by Boucher (USA)), while Lilting is the dam of the 1971 Golden Slipper winner Fairy Walk (Ch m 1968, Minor Portion (IRE)), who appears in the pedigrees of 31 Stakes winners. Entreaty’s ﬁrst daughter Fortune’s Wheel hasn’t had the same inﬂuence as Raphis, but her claim to fame is that she
A CHAMPION‘S PEDIGREE RADIUM (GB)
BEND OR (GB) TAIA (GB)
NIGHT RAID (GB) SENTIMENT (GB) PHAR LAP (NZ) CH G 1926
SPEARMINT (GB) FLAIR (GB)
is the seventh dam of Sunline. Fortune’s Wheel is responsible for 58 Stakes winners. One other daughter of Entreaty, Enticing, a 1937 three-quarter sister to Phar Lap, being by Night Raid’s son Nightmarch (the 1929 Melbourne Cup winner), is the ancestress of 29 Stakes winners, including the 2006 Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes winner Ellicorsam (Ch m 2000, FimistonPremium Gold, by Bold Invader). Two of Entreaty’s sons, Nightguard (by Night Raid) and Vindicator (by Nightmarch), won races. Nightguard was more of a sprinter, winning nine races between 1200m and 1800m, whereas Vindicator proved to be one of New Zealand’s best jumpers of his time. He is credited as being Entreaty’s only other Stakes winner because back then the feature jumps races carried the equivalent of Listed status. Vindicator won two of those black type features. Entreaty’s third dam, the imported Miss Kate (by Adventurer), has become a famous foundation mare for New Zealand breeding. Apart from Phar Lap, she also is the ancestress of the wonderful New Zealand champion Kindergarten (25 wins). In more recent times the 1971 Melbourne Cup winner Silver Knight, the 2007 Caulﬁeld Cup winner Master O’Reilly and the 2007 Adelaide Cup-Sydney Cup winner Gallic trace back to Miss Kate. Entreaty died at Ilam Stud in 1943, the same year that Night Raid died. She is buried on the grounds that now house the playing ﬁelds of the University of Canterbury. Bibliography:
WILLIAM THE THIRD (GB) CONJURE (GB)
ENTREATY (NZ) PRAYER WHEEL (NZ)
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PILGRIM’S PROGRESS (GB) CATHERINE WHEEL (NZ)
Susan Archer and NZ Champions Racing Museum. Rhett Kirkwood, Equus Marketing. Gainesway Stud, Kentucky, USA (www.gainesway.com) Thoroughbred Heritage (www.tbheritage.com)
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Entreaty’s sons and daughters 1925 f FORTUNE’S WHEEL (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Raced, but unplaced. Dam Q of the Group 3-winning ﬁlly Caliente, who produced the Group 2 winner Hot Pursuit. Q Ancestress of 58 Stakes winners (17 Group 1 winners). Q Seventh dam of champion mare Sunline (B m 1999, Desert Sun (GB)-Songline (NZ), by Western Symphony (USA)), who was twice Australian Champion Racehorse, fourtime NZ Horse of the Year and winner of 13 Group 1 races. 1926 c PHAR LAP (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Legendary racehorse. Winner of 36 Stakes races. Won the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Died in the US after winning the Agua Calienta Handicap at Santa Anita, New Mexico, in 1932. 1927 f NEA LAP (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Won four races in New Zealand before being exported to the USA. Owned by Jock Whitney of Mare’s Nest Stud, Kentucky. Q Dam of six winners, including the outstanding multiple Grade One-winning handicapper Four Freedoms (by Peace Chance), who sired 10 Stakes winners. 1928 c NIGHTGUARD (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Gelding. Won nine races in NZ from 1200m to 1600m. 1930 c ALL CLEAR (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Unraced, did not stand at stud. 1931 c FRIDAY NIGHT (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Did not win, but was placed. Q The only male sibling of Phar Lap to stand at stud. He sired the Stakes-placed Perusha, and one other winner, Cheap Landing.
1932 f TE UIRA (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Unraced. Exported to England where she had three foals, no winners. She has no descendants in England. 1934 f RAPHIS (by Night Raid (GB)) Q Descendants of Raphis have won 111 Stakes races, including 20 Group 1 wins. Q Raphis is the dam of three high-class Stakes winners, including the brilliant 1946 Great Northern Oaks winner Swingalong (by Battle Song (GB)); the 1949 AJC The Metropolitan winner Count Cyrano (by Battle Song (GB)); and the fast 2YO colt John O’London (by Solicitor General (GB)), who won the important CJC Champagne Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton. Q Bobalong (M 1946, Lord Bobs (GB)-Raphis) produced the champion stayer Monte Carlo (H 1953, by Lucky Bag (GB)), who won nine Stakes races including the 1956 AJC Derby and Victoria Derby double, the 1957 AJC St Leger, the 1958 AJC The Metropolitan and the 1958 L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes – all Group 1 equivalent. Q There are two distinctly successful breeding lines tracing to Raphis – Day Tripper (Br m 1964, Bourbon Prince (USA)-Sway, by Lucky Bag (GB)), who boasts Swingalong as her third dam; and Lilting (M 1960, Messmate (GB)-Del Monte, by Lucky Bag (GB)), whose dam is a sister to Monte Carlo. Q Day Tripper is responsible for 27 of the Raphis line’s Stakes winners. Day Tripper’s most inﬂuential daughter is the dual Stakes winner Impede (by Showdown (GB)), the dam of triple Stakes-winning ﬁlly Shackle, but best known for being the granddam of the
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champion ﬁlly Research (B m 1985, Imperial Prince (IRE)-Outing, by Boucher (USA)), who in the 1988-89 season won four Group 1 races – the Flight Stakes, VRC Oaks, AJC Derby and AJC Oaks – and took Australian Horse of the Year honours. Like a lot of mares in Entreaty’s family, Research hasn’t matched her breeding record to her race performances. No Stakes winner has Research, who was exported in the USA in 1997, in his/her pedigree. Q Lilting has provided 40 of Raphis’ Stakes winners, mainly thanks to her 1971 Golden Slipper-winning daughter Fairy Walk (Ch m 1968, Minor Portion (IRE)) who went on to breed three Stakes winners, but her line has produced 31 Stakes winners. Fairy Walk is the dam of the triple Group 1 winner and handy sire Cheyne Walk (by Le Cordonnier (GB)), who, ironically, also won the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes in 1976. Lilting also is the dam of the 1978 Group 1 Flight Stakes winner Jubilee Walk (by King Of Babylon (IRE)). Fairy Walk is the granddam of the Group 1 winner Boardwalk Angel (by Bletchingly), who in turn produced the Group 1 winner Coogee Walk. Lloyd Williams’ former topclass galloper Activation (by Zabeel (NZ)) is a son of Coogee Walk. The latest Stakes winner from this line of the Phar Lap family is Marching (B h 2004, Commands-Step, by Grand Lodge (USA)), who boasts Fairy Walk as his fourth dam. Fairy Walk’s half-brother, the AJC Derby runner-up Planet Kingdom (by Star Kingdom) proved to be a wonderful sire, easily the best and most inﬂuential sire in the Phar Lap family. Planet Kingdom sired 18 Stakes winners, including the near champions, Caulﬁeld Cup winners Mighty Kingdom and Ming Dynasty. Planet Kingdom sired two good sire-sons, Gypsy Kingdom (eight Stakes winners) and Ideal Planet (four Stakes winners).
1936 c ILAM WAY (by Iliad GB)) Unraced. Did not stand at stud.
1937 f ENTICING (by Nightmarch (NZ)) Q Winner over 1800m in NZ. Q Ancestress of 29 Stakes winners (six Group 1 winners) Q Granddam of the outstanding NZ racehorse Picaroon (G 1954, Pictavia (GB)-Treaty (NZ), by Kincardine (GB)), winner of nine Stakes races, including two Awapuni Gold Cups, three Ormond Memorial Gold Cups (now the Group 1 Kelt Capital Stakes) and a Trentham Stakes. Q Most of the Stakes winners from this line descend through the New Zealand mare Beauty Secret (by Hermes (GB)), the dam of Geelong Cup winner Beau Trist, and her daughter Secret Beauty (by Sir Tristram (IRE)). The most recent Stakes winner from the EnticingBeauty Secret line of the Phar Lap family is the Kingston Parkowned Oval Affair (B f 2005, King Of Roses-Presidential Suite, by Kingston Rule (USA)), who won the 2008 Group 3 Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) at Flemington. Q There is WA-based branch of Enticing’s family that comes through Countess Donnier, a 1973 Le Cordonnier mare out of Ookuloo (by Knight’s Romance), a granddaughter of Enticing. This line from Entreaty has produced the ﬂying mare Ellicorsam, winner of the 2006 Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes. In fact the WA off-shoot has the closest link of any to Entreaty, as there are breeding mares who have Entreaty as their sixth dam. 1940 c VINDICATOR (by Nightmarch (NZ)) Q Gelded. Outstanding jumper who won the Listed ARC Winter Steeple and the Listed Greenlane Steeple. Placed third in the Listed Great Northern Steeple. 1943 f SABLE (by Nightmarch (NZ)) Q Unraced. Dam of Wait A Bit, winner of seven races. Q At stud until she was 20, but not one of her descendants has produced a Stakes winner.
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Importing a cup prospect T Viewed’s Melbourne Cup was memorable as the 12th victory for legendary trainer Bart Cummings – and for being the ﬁrst Australian-bred winner since Rogan Josh in 1999. Despite the latest result, owners and trainers continue to look to Europe for that elusive champion. BY EMMA BERRY.
64 THE THOROUGHBRED
he extraordinary Royal Ascot double in 2003 by Choisir (Ch h 1999, Danehill Dancer (Ire)-Great Selection, by Lunchtime (GB)) did wonders to advertise the brilliance of Australian sprinters to a European audience. Subsequent victories by Takeover Target (B g 1999, Celtic Swing (GB)-Shady Stream, by Archregent (Can)) and Miss Andretti (B m 2001, Ihtiram (Ire)-Peggie’s Bid, by Marooned (GB)) underlined the fact that Choisir was no one-off. But could this predilection for speedy
FELLOW TRAVELLERS: The grey Woodcutter and Trenchtown are two of the stayers Lee Freedman bought at Newmarket to race in Australia.
genes potentially scupper domestic owners’ chances of winning the one contest that transcends the ‘magniﬁcent triviality’ that it is horse racing – the Melbourne Cup? Take a cursory glance at the 2008 winners of the only Group 1 races at the VRC Spring Carnival run at 2000 metres or beyond – the Melbourne Cup, Victoria Derby and Oaks, and Mackinnon Stakes – and the easy answer is no. Viewed (B h 2003, Scenic (Ire)-Lover’s Knot (NZ), by Khozaam (USA)), Rebel Raider (Br c 2005, Reset-Picholine, by Dehere (USA)), Samantha Miss (B f 2005, Redoute’s Choice-Milliyet (NZ), by Zabeel (NZ)) and Theseo (Ch g 2003, Danewin-Ozone Sand (USA), by L’Enjoleur (Can)) are all Australian-bred and their achievements this season have done much to dispel any suggestion that, as regards to producing top-class stayers, the Australian breeding scene is doomed. But Viewed’s last-gasp win over Bauer represented the ﬁrst time the AUS sufﬁx had been carried to victory in the Cup this century; Rogan Josh (B g 1992, Old SpiceEastern Mystique, by Hammed (NZ)) is the last domesticallybred winner. in 1999. Since then, the breeding honours have gone to New Zealand, Japan, the US and, most notably, Great Britain, courtesy of three-time winner Makybe Diva (B m 1999, Desert King (Ire)-Tugela (USA), Riverman (USA)). “I think the Australians realise that one thing Europe does well is produce stamina,” says Jason Singh, a Melbourne-raised ownerbreeder who is now marketing manager for the Tattersalls sales company in the UK. It was at the Newmarket auction house that Makybe Diva’s dam Tugela had been bought, carrying the future champion, for 60,000 guineas (about $140,000) in 1998, and the eight-month-old Diva went through the same ring herself 12 months later. She was passed in
BUYING FROM ABROAD – TREADING A WELL-WORN PATH By Stephen Howell The recent English purchases by Lee Freedman, Tony Noonan, Chris Waller et al (or, more accurately, their clients) are more evolution than revolution, because, since racing began in Australia, horses have been bought and sold offshore to race here. It wasn’t all that long ago – all right, 20-plus years – that Lloyd Williams had John Ferguson (now Sheikh Mohammed’s man) buy him European stayers. Others have done so, too, including OTI Thoroughbreds of Victorians Simon O’Donnell and Terry Henderson (the Bauer boys). And the other Sheikh (Hamdan) has been sending horses to Lindsay Park since well before David Hayes took over from his father Colin. Some of them (Tawqeet, At Talaq, Jeune and Almaraad) won at the highest level. And don’t forget Robert Sangster’s Beldale Ball, the 1980 Melbourne Cup winner. The successes, and the “what might have beens”, in conjunction with our racing’s need for speed bloodlines and the lessening of the New Zealand staying inﬂuence (Zabeel excepted), have come together to push the European market into the spotlight. The high-proﬁle Freedman’s spending spree should ensure the overseas market returns to centre stage for some time. Interestingly, the purchases are for racing, not breeding, and his half-dozen were gelded after the October sales. They arrived in Sydney on a 40-degree day late
in January , healthy but cut – whether they cut it on the track, we must wait and see. The stable’s website, freedman.com.au, tells what Anthony Freedman, who went to England, hopes his brother Lee can put forward in staying races … Tomintoul Flyer (2005, Dr Fong (USA)-Miller’s Melody (GB), by Chief Singer (IRE)): The 57,000 guineas (about $150,000) purchase is described as tough and honest, having raced from MayOctober without a break and without a lame step. Is rated ﬁve pounds higher than Bauer at the same stage and was beaten just over a length by the subsequent Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Muhannak. The lads with his previous trainer (Henry Cecil) claim that there is plenty ‘left in the tank’. Measurement (2006, Viking Ruler-El-Libaab (GB), by Unfuwain (USA)): The 67,000 guineas (about $175,000) buy is athletic and looks as tough as nails. He was Stakes placed at two (over 1600m) and should improve with age and distance. Woodcutter (2005, Daylami (IRE)-Cinnamon Rose (USA), by Trempolino (USA)): This 54,000 guineas (about $142,000) purchase was Anthony’s favourite horse in the Tattersalls sale – he was owned byy Sheikh Mohammed’s ’s wife, Princess Haya. ya. Woodcutter has had ﬁve starts for a win (over 2400m), ), a second and a third.
Trenchtown (2005, King’s Best (USA)-Barbuda (GB), by (Rainbow Quest (USA)): He cost 42,000 guineas (about $110,000) and is tall and leggy, in the mould of his broodmare sire, Rainbow Quest, and will make a better older horse. He showed solid form before tailing off slightly on recent starts – loves good ground and will be suited to ﬂat Australian tracks. Timetable (2005, Observatory (USA)Clepsydra (GB), by Sadler’s Wells (USA)): a 45,000 guineas (about $118,000) buy who won at his most recent start. He is a well-balanced, good-looking horse and is a half-brother to Group 1 winner Passage Of Time. Being gelded should help. The Racing Post said he was better than his Timeform rating (88) suggested “and it might be that he is beginning to get his act together”. Sound of Nature (2003, Chester House (USA)Yashmak (USA), by Danzig (USA)) : He cost 24,000 guineas (about $63,000) and, despite being older than the others, has had only seven starts – has had injury problems but is now sound. An associate of former trainer Henry Cecil was the underbidder.
HIGH HOPES: er is rated Tomintoul Flyer auer was higher than Bauer age. at the same stage.
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THE HOLY GRAIL: Local Viewed denied visitor Bauer the ultimate Australian prize, the 2008 Melbourne Cup.
at 19,000 guineas (about $45,000) before being shipped to Australia as a yearling. Grant Pritchard-Gordon, the British bloodstock agent charged with buying potential Cup horses for Lee Freedman at Tattersalls’ horses-in-training sale, concurs. He says: “Australian-breds are the best sprinters in the world, but European stayers are world-class – they really excel in this sphere.” His purchases were to arrive at Markdel in February after two weeks in quarantine at Homebush in Sydney. At an average of about 50,000 guineas (about $115,000), the six were relatively inexpensively bought – relative insofar as that any horse who has shown an aptitude for middle distances on the ﬂat has been leapt upon by the jumps fraternity in Britain recently. The boom in popularity in jump racing forced the prices upward (as witnessed by the fact that 2007 Melbourne Cup runner-up Purple Moon was bought as a potential hurdler at three for the equivalent of just over $1 million) but the current gloom in the general economy has led to woeful sales returns in almost all sectors of the northern hemisphere bloodstock market. “We would normally have hit heads with some of the jumping
boys,” says Pritchard-Gordon. “As the market has been depressed we were probably able to buy horses that we would have been outbid on a few years ago. Our brief was to ﬁnd a horse that could stay 10 furlongs (2000m) with size and substance and the type of pedigree that would see them likely to improve beyond the age of three.”
‘ You end up
paying a premium for that, which is why we’ve come here. TONY NOONAN
Pritchard-Gordon was not the only buyer at Tattersalls looking to the Australian market. For the third consecutive year, Sydney trainer Chris Waller was also in Newmarket. He bought seven horses, among them Kossack (B c 2005, Sadlers Wells (USA)Kithanga (Ire), by Darshaan (GB)), a full-brother to Aidan O’Brien’s 2001 St Leger winner Milan, bred by Luca and Sara Cumani. “It’s fairly new to ﬁnd Australian buyers at the horses-in-training sale,” says Singh. “But, going back, horses such as Almaarad (the 1989 Cox Plate winner) and Jeune (the 1994 Melbourne Cup winner) have gone down to Australia and done well.”
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Taking a chance on British bloodstock from an even earlier stage is Tony Noonan, who has been buying at the October yearling sales for four years. His ﬁrst UK purchase, a Soviet Star colt by the name of Buccellati (Ch h 2004, Soviet Star (USA)Susi Wong (Ire), by Selkirk (USA)), has proved a shrewd buy, winning seven of his 20 starts, including the Group 3 St Simon Stakes (2400m) in October for his Australian owners, Peter and Jennifer McMahon and Rex and Wendy Gorell. Trained in the UK by Noonan’s great friend Andrew Balding, Buccellati is expected to race in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) at Kranji on May 17 on his way to Melbourne, with the Melbourne Cup his ultimate goal. Speaking at the sales, Noonan said: “I came up with the idea of buying some horses in Britain and, luckily enough, I had some clients who liked the idea too. If one of them can come back to Australia and win the Cup, then that would be even better! “We’re looking for mile-andhalf type horses: Cup horses with a little bit more speed. In Europe they breed more staying types and the pool of horses we can select from now in Australia and New Zealand is shrinking. You end up paying a premium for that, which is why we’ve come here.”
This year, the team bought a High Chaparral colt; the year before they netted what is now a highly considered three-year-old named Swindler (B c 2006, Sinndar (Ire)Imitation (GB), by Darshaan (GB)). Swindler was a strong second at his only two-year-old start, over 1400m at Newmarket in July, but after that split a pastern and had to have an operation. He is back in work with Balding at Lambourn. “We’re still aiming at the (English) Derby with him, but we may run out of time,” Noonan said. “If we do, we’ll prepare him for some of the better three-year-old races (after the Derby).” Noonan also bought a Montjeu colt in Swindler’s year. “He’s unraced, but he’s in work with Andrew and showing real promise,’’ he said. “The High Chaparral (colt) has just turned two. He’s broken in and in light work with Andrew.’’ High Chaparral and Sinndar, Derby-winning sires, have struggled for patronage; but one who has not is Galileo, who has just been crowned champion sire in Britain and Ireland for the ﬁrst time, inheriting the title from his father, Sadlers Wells. Although Galileo shuttled to Coolmore Australia for several seasons (when he covered Makybe Diva in 2006) and has left the likes of Gallant Tess and Sousa, neither he nor his fellow Coolmore resident and equally prepotent sire of top-class stayers, Montjeu, are likely to shuttle again. The prohibitive cost of insuring two such highly valuable stallions would be the principal reason, but it has to be said that Montjeu, in particular, was given only a lukewarm reception during his tenure at Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand. Despite the debacle of Aidan O’Brien’s trio of runners in the Melbourne Cup, Lee Freedman has expressed an interest in Alessandro Volta (B h 2005, Montjeu (Ire)-Ventura Highway (GB), by Machiavellian (USA)) with this year’s Cup in mind.
‘Peter is a skillful author and knows his subject well – I know because he and I worked for my Dad, Tommy Smith, in the late seventies, early eighties, where he was T.J.’s “travelling head lad”. Punter’s Turf is an authentic account of the racing world.’ GA I WATE R H O U S E
Available at all good bookstores. www.panmacmillan.com.au
68 THE THOROUGHBRED
PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
A hard-drinking daydreamer who was expelled from university, Andrew Black never looked like living up to his own visions of grandeur. But, inspired by the memory of his dead brother and father, he devised the concept of Betfair – the sports betting exchange that has taken the gambling world by storm. He shares his story with BEN COLLINS. y grandfather, Sir Cyril Black, was a conservative MP who campaigned against gambling. Alcohol and pornography were among his other bugbears. He was a terrifying man, a manmountain and completely bald. He was devoutly religious, which I’m not, and he was a very moral man. His whole life was a crusade. He was also described as the richest man in the (House of) Commons, but he was a great philanthropist who gave away huge amounts of money. At his peak, he was on the board of 115 organisations – simultaneously! His work-rate was unbelievable. He knew I was a gambler, but he mellowed a little in his very old age. (Sir Cyril passed away in 1991, aged 89). Betfair would be a paradox for my grandfather. On one hand he was against gambling full stop; but on the other, he would have appreciated the entrepreneurial side of it.
My father (Tony) was a mathematical genius. He graduated top of the country in maths. I could give him the most complex mathematical problem that would take me half-an-hour to solve – and I’m reasonable at maths myself – and he’d do it in a minute. He was a property developer who did some interesting things. He once borrowed a lot of money to build a big shopping centre in the middle of nowhere, and it was really successful. He also organised some large concerts at Wembley Arena with some of the top black stars of the ’60s like James Brown and Desmond Dekker. The ﬁrst concert sold out in three weeks; the next year it sold out in three days. I backed a winner with my ﬁrst bet as an eightyear-old. At my ﬁrst little race meeting at Windsor, I wandered down to the paddocks and there was a big bay horse with No. 6 on it and I thought: ‘He has to win.’ I was allowed one bet, so I ran back to my father and told him: ‘I want to back No. 6.’ When the horses ﬁled out on to the track, No. 6 was a scrawny
THE THOROUGHBRED 69
I was always in trouble at school. I was quite good at physics, OK at chemistry and broadly top-of-the-class at maths, but I wasn’t the most hard-working student. I was a real daydreamer, and I set records for conduct cards and detention. I was just very opinionated and I talked back to the teachers. I didn’t like being told what to do. It might have strayed into arrogance. I think my grandfather might have inﬂuenced it. He was looking at my school report once and he said: ‘Oh, Andrew, I see you’re top of the class in maths. Of course, that’s because you’re a Black.’ I walked away thinking: ‘Oooh, I’m a Black; I’m special.’ I was thrown out of university. I was doing a maths course at Exeter University and I was getting lazier and lazier. I was also quite naïve – I’d never had a girlfriend, never had a drink – so university was a huge eye-opener. I went there as an innocent and two years later I was expelled as a hairy, drunken fool. The exams were a piece of cake but I failed everything. My life was about playing sport, drinking and parties. I became a bit of a hedonist. I genuinely believed I would be a success at something, g, I just didn’t know what. I always ways said: ‘One day I’ll create something amazing.’ Some me of my friends have gone on to lead successful lives as bankers, doctors, lawyers, rs, etc., but none of them tried ried to do something really big – they never wanted to. But I did. id.. I was always going to have a go.
was slow, backward and didn’t deliver any value, and I could see a better way. My betting exchange followed the concept of ‘perfect competition’, which was one of the things I learned while studying economics at university. Person-to-person betting seemed a very logical application of the internet. For a start, it took out the middle man – the bookie – and it was more convenient, much faster, it gave you more dimensions and it was much more fun. The real key, though, was that you got a better price and better value for your money.
PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
little grey – I’d been looking at the unsaddling enclosure! I was in tears. My father said: ‘He’s got a chance.’ My horse won in a ﬁve-way photo ﬁnish. The £2 winnings was a real windfall. But if the scrawny grey had ﬁnished second in the photo, my whole life might have taken a different path. Maybe I would have thought: ‘Gambling is bad news.’
AT THE RACES: Andrew Black at Flemington during the 2008 Melbourne Cup carnival.
My younger brother (Kevin) died young – and it tore me to pieces. (In 1987) I was 24 and unemployed when Kevin (then 19) was diagnosed with a brain infection. He slipped into a coma and when he woke up three months later he was a quadriplegic. He lived on for two years and I didn’t work in that time; I basically devoted myself to nursing him. We were very close and he was my only brother. It was a desperate time, but you always had to keep your chin up. I took his death very hard. I took time out for three months. The love of a good woman helped get me back on track. I started seeing Jane (Diver), who I eventually married. Although Jane was very sensitive to the fact I was feeling beaten up about my brother, at the same time she was workingg veryy hard to become a
‘ My life was
about playing sport, drinking and parties. I became a bit of a hedonist.
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lawyer and I sensed she wasn’t happy going out with someone who didn’t have any career prospects. I didn’t want to lose her, so at the age of 26 I got myself my ﬁrst real job and my life took off a bit. I worked for four years in the city (London, with a ﬁnancial services company). I became bored with work, so I gambled more. In the space of three months I won a total of about £50,000 – a fortune compared to what I was earning at the time – so I gambled full-time for a year, with reasonable results. I then spent a year as a trader in London and New York, so I learned all about stock exchanges. I quit after a row with my bosses and I retrained as a (computer) programmer, built a couple of databases and about six websites. I worked closely with the government on various mathematical things, and worked at GCHQ (the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters). The idea for Betfair came to me in a farmhouse in Gloucestershire, where I Gloucest staying while working was stayi for GCHQ. GCHQ By then, I was a competent programmer comp and I knew my way about the sstock exchange, the internet and gambling, so inter played to my strengths by I play combining each of those facets combin to develop develo the idea of a sports exchange. I’d always betting ex thought tthe gambling industry
I designed it from scratch, without reference to anything other than the stock exchange. I worked largely from my own experiences and knowledge, and what I wanted as a punter. I worked on it for about 18 months in my own time. I looked at it from every angle and couldn’t see any holes in it. I believed it was going to be a big thing. I discussed it with my father and he said: ‘You’ve got to do this.’ I said: ‘Yeah, I will.’ He said: ‘Do it now.’ But I didn’t – I kept procrastinating. Life was good: I was recently married and I had a nice job making more money than I ever had. I thought: ‘Why change things?’ And it would have been a hard sell to Jane. Imagine telling her: ‘I want to give up all of this and invest all our savings into starting a new company doing something you don’t even understand.’ It just didn’t make sense. The death of my father was the biggest turning point in my life. He had always been my hero. (In 1999) he was suddenly taken ill with pancreatitis and he died two weeks later. The two people I’d been closest to were both gone. For three days I sat on a chair and just stared out the window. Then I decided I would have a go at creating the betting exchange. I told Jane: ‘My father wanted me to do it; I want to do it. I know it’s a massive risk and I’m playing with our money, but I just have to do this.’
I wouldn’t term myself lazy, but I’m not far off it. I’m certainly not like my grandfather. I’m not a great doer, but I can become obsessive about things, like in the early days of Betfair when I worked ridiculously stressful hours. My greatest strength is I’m a good thinker. At least, I think I am. And I thought about the betting exchange all the time – when I was having a bath, when I was on the toilet. I was convinced I was on a winner. I thought: ‘I’ve been a gambler all my life. If someone else invented this tomorrow, I’d use it to the exclusion of all else. There must be a lot of other people like me out there. There’s a miniscule chance I’m wrong, but if I’m right it’s going to be huge.’
Betfair says a good way to understand how it works on many sports is to think of it in similar terms to the Stock Exchange. The Stock Exchange is based on the bid/ask model, as is Betfair. If you’ve done the form, and rate horse X at $3, and the market is offering $2.60, you can ask the market for $3 and wait until your request is matched. In the example below the $509 in the “lay” column
represents punters prepared to back Rock Kingdom at $2.2 (others are requesting $2.22, $2.24), however the best offer is $2.18 ($5082 is available to take). Should the $2.2 punters decide $2.18 is satisfactory, they can take any or all of the $5082 on offer at $2.18. $251,522 has been matched on this event, and the market is operating at a percentage of 103.3%. Betfair takes a commission of between
two and ﬁve per cent on your net winnings on each market, but punters who have a net loss on a market don’t pay any commission. The winner is paid as soon as a market is settled. There is no risk of default because punters cannot bet on credit. For further details, go to www.betfair.com. au, which has a punters’ guide. Punters must be over 18, and fulﬁl Australian Government ID regulations.
I locked myself away for four days in a little room like a mad professor to conquer the main core of the exchange. There was a bed in the room, so I worked, ate and slept there and hardly came out until I got it done. I ﬁnd I can only ever build complex stuff by immersing myself in it, working really long hours and shutting out everything else. Betfair has caused some of my friends great sadness and regret. I wanted three friends to come in with me as partners and each of them said: ‘Thanks and good luck’ – and each of them regrets it now. Although I realise you can’t do any more than offer someone such an opportunity, I’m very conscious of the fact I’ve blighted their lives. Who knows, though – if they came on board, it might have failed. I landed myself the king of all business partners – Ed Wray, the brother of my best mate Jeremy. I didn’t even think of Ed as a possible business partner because he was doing so well for himself. He’d had the classical path to success: he’d gone to an exclusive school, got a good
degree at the best university in the country (Oxford), spent eight years in a great job in one of the best ﬁnancial institutions (J.P. Morgan) and was earning a fortune; about £300,000-a-year. Not bad for a 27-year-old! But he wanted to do something more adventurous, and I sold him on the concept. But he wasn’t a gambler and wasn’t entirely sure it would work, so he took a real leap
of faith. I think for him there was always the slight apprehension that I might be a lunatic. As it turned out, I needed him. I have certain failings and I needed a partner who was strong in those areas. He looked after the ﬁnancial and legal side of it while I focused on the website. He was so ruthless he was going to knock down any walls that were in our way. If I found a different business partner,
we mightn’t have got Betfair off the ground. Venture capitalists wouldn’t touch us. I don’t think they liked us. Ed was a banker in a suit who had a CV that looked like he’d never done anything creative in his life, and I’d done nothing. We were just one of 50 potential dot. com businesses getting in touch with them each day. We had to get ﬁnance another way.
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late. Bookmaking businesses have continued to thrive since our launch. The internet world collapsed, but we not only survived, we thrived. We launched the company at the peak of the dot.com boom, but within six months, it had gone from people not being able to spend enough money on websites to a point where there was no money left. It was carnage. But we had a group of investors we could go back to once we proved ourselves. Once punters started signing up, we realised we were on to a goer. We had a straight-line progression. In our ﬁrst week in June 2000, we traded £35,000 – which represents a good 10 seconds now! We also have more than two million registered users. THE CHOICES: Betfair.com’s online betting page.
We valued the company at £4 million before any money came in. No one could prove our prototype was worth a single penny yet we were asking people to invest on that valuation of £4 million. Ed’s attitude was: ‘We’re not selling it a penny cheaper. This is the right ﬁgure.’ I showed it to a very good friend and he said: ‘You’re valuing your company at £4 million?’ I said: ‘Yeah.’ He said: ‘But you’re just a couple of guys sitting in a room.’ I said: ‘Yes, but we’re worth that, and we’re better than all the other companies that are valuing themselves at that or more.’ He said: ‘This is really offensive. I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it,’ and he virtuallyy hung up on me. He, too, has regretted retted it ever since. We raised £1 million, mainly through Ed’s contacts. When we approached his rich banker friends, after 20 0 minutes they’d say: ‘Yep, p, I’m in,’ and sign up for 20 or 30 grand. We raised a million lion on very quickly.
Building the exchange was a difﬁcult but rewarding experience. I was a bit daunted because I’d never attempted anything so complex. With a team of three people, we started building it from February 1, 2000, and it took us four months and nine days to build it from scratch. And we nailed it. It was great to have the site look like it had millions spent on it when in reality next to nothing was spent on it. Our theme on day one was ‘the death of the bookie’. We wouldn’t dare to run a campaign like that today, but we didn’t have a reputation to lose and we had no money. We relied on a lot of guerrilla marketing. We hired actors and sent a funeral cortege g
‘ He virtually
hung up on me – and he, too, has regretted it ever since.
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through the city of London, where they carried a cofﬁn supposedly carrying a bookie. We also staged a fake demonstration outside one of the big London nightspots. I turned up and there were about 40 actors carrying big placards saying: ‘BAN BETFAIR,’ ‘BETFAIR KILLING BOOKIES,’ ‘BETFAIR UNFAIR.’ Bouncers were pushing them back. We felt like complete amateurs, but we made the front page of The Sunday Times business section. I don’t think we’ve done that since! Bookies couldn’t care less about us to begin with. They didn’t think we’d amount to anything. But one racing journalist told me very early on: ‘I think you’ve launched something that is be massive.’ The general going to b perception soon changed though. A senior eexecutive of one of the big British bookmakers once said to me: ‘In all my days at the company, I never feared c anything except Betfair. It anyt was the ﬁrst thing I thought about abou when I woke up, and it was the last thing I thought about bef before I went to sleep.’ He was terriﬁed, but he couldn’t do anything about it – it was too
It’s a real adrenalin rush. There might be 50 bets coming through each second and all the numbers are changing like crazy. You don’t actually see the 50 bets; all you see are the numbers changing. You can always see what you should’ve done. For instance, a horse might be priced at 7, then it’ll go up to 8, then down to 6, and you think: ‘I don’t want to back it now at 6. I should’ve backed it at 8.’ I love analysis, and I think Betfair provides scope for more of that. Our best marketing people were our customers. Once punters get their head around our concept, you never lose them. And they then become evangelists for you. In chat rooms, they say: ‘You guys are crazy. Why are you betting here? You should be on Betfair.’ That’s how we grew. I was afraid we’d go under, but we swallowed the opposition. In the early days, we had a well-ﬁnanced competitor called Flutter, which had launched a few weeks before us with a product very much like eBay. It was easy to understand but
5/6/08 9:15:43 AM
there were a number of serious design ﬂ aws. One day they realised they had only three per cent of the market, while we had the other 97 per cent, so they reinvented themselves in our image, copying us as closely as they could without infringing on our copyright. I was angry and feeling plagiarised, but also terriﬁed we’d lose our dominance to them. In the end, we merged the two companies together. It wasn’t a popular decision because a lot of their people knew they would lose their jobs. It was almost a reverse takeover: we took their cash and their best people, but we kept our people, our website and our ofﬁce.
To ﬂoat or not to ﬂoat – that was the question. Stephen Hill wanted to ﬂoat the company (on the stock exchange). We were very close to doing it and I was initially supportive, but I became opposed to it because I didn’t think the company was in good enough shape. We voted not to ﬂoat and Stephen left (in October 2005). One of the reasons I’m slightly anti-public markets is that it forces you to think and act very much in the short term, which I think is the downfall of many companies around the world. We made the right call. I expected strong resistance to us in Australia, but not that strong. Stephen sent these two English guys out to kick off our Australian operation and I think that was a miscalculation. We’ve always had a lot of Aussies on the staff and we should have hired Australians to do it. They took a while to get comfortable with the political landscape and there was an over-emphasis of the Englishness of Betfair in the press, which didn’t help our cause.
Betfair founder Andrew Black, in Melbourne for the 2008 Cup carnival, notes that it adds to racing’s ‘global feel’.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL WILLSON (THE SLATTERY MEDIA GROUP)
We blundered by trying to over-corporatise. We wanted to turn Betfair into a really solid company, so (in June 2003) we hired a chief executive, Stephen Hill, who had been the chief executive at The Financial Times.
IN PRAISE OF THE MELBOURNE CUP
I think foreign raiders will, in time, enhance the Melbourne Cup. It’s an interesting debate about the level of European participation in the race and whether it should be capped at a certain number. There were eight raiders last year and from our perspective it’s great, but others, not the least being Bart Cummings, PUBLICIST: Gai Waterhouse, on disagree with that. her visits to England, is a popular We’re accustomed to promoter of Australian racing foreign raiders in the UK – the French and Irish play a big part at Royal Ascot, and recently Australian raiders have become a part of the whole meeting. The
It was totally different from our launch in the UK, when there were 10 or 15 big companies dominating the marketplace and loads of small ones, so we were just another one coming into the mix. But in Australia the TAB dominates the scene and for a long time they had a full-on monopoly. The TAB was thinking: ‘What the hell is this?’ It was the last thing they wanted because they knew what we’d done in the UK. Betfair is an incredibly disruptive, destructive technology for other betting businesses, so it was a given that we would meet a lot of opposition in Australia. But we
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British punting public might have felt a bit funny at ﬁrst because they didn’t know how to assess the form, but the same horses and trainers come over, people get to know them and it leads to a lot of hype in the press. We love it now – it’s a great sideshow, and Gai Waterhouse and the like have become popular ﬁgures with the public. You might get the same thing happening with the European raiders going to the Melbourne Cup. I think it’s a good thing for racing all round to have a more global feel to it.
never copped anything that bad in the UK – the Australian press are more hard-hitting. I’m quite an emotive person and I don’t like people talking the business down, but on the whole I’m reconciled to it.
betting is not addictive, it’s exhilarating and exciting.
I never ﬁght back publicly, even though I want to at times. The internet is a tough medium – 95 per cent of customers might be happy with something but the unhappy ﬁve per cent make the most noise. They say we’ve changed, that we’re too corporate ... but that’s just because we’re big. We’re not a bad company; we’re good, well-meaning, hard-working people. There are a lot of things I’d love to do in Australia, but the law prevents us. For instance, online ‘in running’ betting is a wonderful part of our product, but we can’t do it in Australia because it’s deemed too addictive. I don’t buy that argument. No other country in the world takes that view. The TABs can’t trade ‘in running’ because that model doesn’t work for them – it’s all reconciled at the end. ‘In running’ trading is much more fun. The ﬂuctuations are incredible. It’s not addictive, it’s exhilarating and exciting – there is a difference. (‘In running’ or ‘in play’ betting can only be done by telephone on Betfair. – Ed.) We are now taking our brand to a national audience in Australia through conventional advertising means such as sponsorship and media buys as well as more strategic online arrangements. We’ve just undertaken a successful marketing campaign around the summer of cricket. We are now also an agent for Tote (Tasmania). We can distribute their products to our customer base through a speciﬁc Tote/Betfair interface. We can now offer popular, exotic markets and an a suite of other products tthat we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to offer the exchange. (The irony through th is that Tote co-pools with TABCorp. – Ed.) TABC not about what Betfair It’s n today; it’s about what it is to be. Betfair will continue will b to grow in Australia. The more who use it, the stronger people wh marketplace and the more the marke attractive it is.
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The Fixer Morgan adapts an old Semaphore system Peter Morgan learned plenty in his time with master horseman Colin Hayes, including the value of water training in the preparation of horses. These days Morgan has moved into racehorse rehabilitation, using a water-walker to cure the troublesome ailments of thoroughbreds at his base north of Melbourne. WORDS DANNY POWER PHOTOS MICHAEL WILLSON
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WALKING IN WATER: Peter Morgan watches as his ‘patients’ work on their ﬁ tness in the water-walker at Talwood Park.
eter Morgan has come a long way since his childhood days riding his pony through the heat and the red dust of the parched land at Menindee, just over 100km southeast of Broken Hill. It is harsh, outback country. Pighunting country. Menindee, a town of fewer than 1000 people, is a place of contrast to the oasis of a nearby lakes system fed by the backwaters of the Darling River. Explorers Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills stayed at Menindee in 1860 on their way north on their ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. About 100 years later, young Morgan, aged 13 and sick of school, was packed off in the opposite direction to Adelaide. It was a lifechanging move, but one less dramatic than the fate
suffered by Burke and Wills, who perished without achieving their goal. Menindee became just a memory for the minute Morgan, a mousey ﬁgure under a big, widebrimmed hat, as he began life as an apprentice jockey under the tutelage of one of Australia’s greatest horsemen, Colin Hayes. Morgan, despite his distaste for the education system, was a sponge for knowledge in his new surroundings, and there was no better teacher than Hayes, who in the early 1960s – pre-Lindsay Park – had a stable of 70 horses. Hayes was just starting to exert his dominance in Adelaide after winning his ﬁ rst South Australian training premiership in 1955-56, the ﬁ rst of eight title wins, broken only in sequence by Ron Dini’s premiership in the 1958-59 season. In the second half of the 1960s, as Hayes waxed
THE THOROUGHBRED 77
the premiership trophies with Bart Cummings and Graham Heagney, there was much going on around Morgan. He watched, he worked and he learned. Now 60, Morgan has made a long and varied career out of horses and his horsemanship. He is a trainer of ﬁne reputation from his Whittlesea base, Talwood Park, a 45-minute drive north of Melbourne. He is a man from the old school who prefers the crisp notes from a bookie’s bag than a trophy in the cabinet. But he is also a ﬁ xer of sorts. He likes the challenge of getting the best out of a horse, of ﬁ xing a troubled mind and a broken-down limb, which is how his Talwood Park property has become not just a training centre but something of an equine rehabilitation centre. A health resort for racehorses. Morgan claims that not a day goes by that he does not implement something he learned from his days with Hayes. “Everything I do is connected with what I learned from him, things like patience and especially the use of water-training,” he said. Morgan has fond memories of his mornings at Adelaide’s Semaphore Park beach, not far from Port Adelaide, where Hayes and many other South Australian trainers made use of the shallow waters and long, sandy stretches of the bay. The salt water training was imperative to Hayes’ success, and Morgan and the other
HANDS ON: Morgan works on horse legs out of the water, too.
YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER: Peter Morgan takes a racehorse into the water-walker.
lads would surge their horses through the water. “It was my ﬁrst association with ‘rushing’, which is making the horse stride through the water using all his legs. The water can’t be too deep otherwise the horse will ﬂoat and bob up and down rather than surge through the water. And it can’t be too shallow, otherwise there is no resistance,” Morgan said. “We used to race our horses in the water, and the rider who won most races would get a prize at the end of the month – a bottle of beer. It was very competitive.” It was a good time to be with Hayes, who made many raids on Melbourne with horses such as 1962 Adelaide Cup winner Cheong Sam (B or br m 1957, Confessor (GB)-China Bride, by Billet (GB)), and many other terriﬁc Stakes-winning handicappers that included Aladdin’s Lamp (B g 1957, Targui (FR)-Divident (IRE), by Birikan (GB)), Trackmaster (B g 1955, Copper Plate (FR)Manling, by Helios (GB)) and Rose Of Summer (Ch m 1956, Summertime (GB)-Meer Rose (NZ), by Vermeer (GB)). The names are stored affectionately in Morgan’s memory bank. “I wasn’t a good jockey, just a fair one, although I was
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leading rider in the south-east of South Australia for a couple of years,” he said. When Hayes moved north to the palatial and ground-breaking Lindsay Park (at Angaston) in 1965, Morgan stayed in Adelaide. He eventually gave up riding, aged 24, to work in the building trade before the lure of horses attracted him back to racing, and ironically, working as a track rider at Lindsay Park. “Then I took a job working for Peter Andrews at Tarwyn Park Stud in the Byalong Valley, next to the Widden Valley (on the north-western edge of the Hunter Valley). It was where Heroic (Ch h 1921, Valais (GB)-Chersonese (GB), by Cylgad (GB)) stood at stud when he was Australian champion sire (six times in the 1930s) and we were standing Rain Lover (B h 1964, Latin Lover (GB)-Rain Spot, by Valognes (GB)) and Eleazar (B h 1967, King Of Babylon (IRE)-Peace Flight, by Pipe Of Peace (GB)). “Andrews was an eccentric man, but I learned a lot about stud work because the Byalong Valley was so isolated. We had to do all our own follicle testing and vet work,” he said. In 1984, Morgan left Tarwyn Park to join a partnership that developed Paumah Stud, southeast of Adelaide, near Tailem Bend, where they stood Lipman (Ch h 1972, Polmak (FR)-Snow Flower (IRE), by Arctic Prince (GB)) and
Rafﬁndale (Gr h 1972, Rafﬁngora (GB)-Wharfedale (GB), by Wilwyn (GB)). Paumah was eventually sold to become Lakewood Stud, and Morgan moved to Melbourne to work for David Moodie’s Contract Racing outﬁt, where he mainly handled the stud work with stallion Blazing Sword (Ch h 1985, Marscay-Royal Plate, by Lunchtime (GB)). Morgan accompanied Blazing Sword and 30 mares (in foal to the stallion) when the package was sold to Thailand in 1995. That trip resulted in him being offered a job as trainer for a rich local in the ﬂedgling racing scene in Thailand. “I was there for about a year,” he said. “If they had got organised, there is enough money and interest for Thailand racing to be as big as Hong Kong, but it never happened.”
hat experience of training whetted Morgan’s appetite to move away from stud work, and he eventually accepted a job as private trainer for Melbourne businessman and long-time racehorse owner Lionel Krongold, working out of Krongold’s property at Whittlesea, Talwood Park. Morgan stayed on as a lessee of the self-contained training farm after Krongold sold out to Ross Doberson, a successful businessman and investor who had no interest in the racing game but loved life on the farm. To this day, Doberson does not have a single share in a racehorse. For years, Morgan had not considered those days of ‘rushing’ at Semaphore Park, until one day he read a story about a horse trained by Mick Price (at Caulﬁeld) that had broken down but had his career rejuvenated by water-walking treatment under the care of bush trainer and rehab guru Peter Clarke at Murchison, north of Nagambie. “I visited Peter and as soon as I saw his water-walker, I realised the horses were ‘rushing’ just as we used to do at Semaphore Park,” Morgan said.
‘ Horses can get ﬁt in the
water-walker but they need to be taken quietly back into track work.’
ON TRACK: Peter Morgan has an all-weather undulating track at Talwood Park, and rolls his sleeves up to keep it in superb condition.
That visit to Murchison changed Morgan’s training style, and the way Talwood Park, which already was an outstanding facility with a superb undulating all-weather track, was run. He was able to convince Doberson that there was a commercial business in racehorse rehabilitation, and the investment was made, to the tune of $2 million. A massive stable complex was built, joined by an expansive covered area which houses a modern water-walker, dry walker and treadmills, treatment tie-ups, wash and veterinary area. Morgan has been able to keep his own team down to a manageable 15-20 horses – “it’s the size I want to be” – but the ‘horse health farm’ is booming with a constant ﬂow of animals from outside stables keeping the 45-horse barn full and the staff busy. The production line runs like clockwork as the horses go through their processes each morning – treatment, swim, treatment, walk, treatment, treadmill, treatment.
he operation took off after Lee Freedman sent Morgan the talented but injury-affected Stavka (B g 2001, Xaar (GB)Special, by Habituate (IRE)) for pre-training. Stavka, who already had bone chips removed from both knees and had knees that, according to Morgan, looked “rougher than my head”, was considered a forlorn task. Freedman left the gelding with Morgan to train; with the help of the water-walker, and some serious TLC, he got the big horse, aged ﬁve, to win his ﬁrst three starts at Echuca and Bendigo (twice) in August and September 2006. By October, Stavka had broken down again in the knees and his owners, including Freedman, sent him to the Inglis sale yards. It was Morgan, and another part-owner David Moodie, who took the risk on Stavka and paid $12,000 for the gelding at the March 2007 sale. “More money than sense” was one comment directed at Morgan, but the trainer again resurrected Stavka’s career. The gelding resumed at Bendigo in June 2008 to win over 1000m, then followed with
wins at Flemington and Moonee Valley. On September 6, Stavka, trained on a diet of no more than swimming and walking, won the Listed Hong Kong Jockey Club Stakes (1400m) at Flemington. The $12,000 investment had leveraged into more than $200,000 in the bank. The Stavka ride was short-lived and, soon after, his injuries ﬁ nished his career, but not before the gelding had highlighted the skill of his trainer and the training regime at Talwood Park. The ﬂoats have been winding their way to Whittlesea ever since. Morgan said several trainers remained reluctant to use his skills. “They think that if I take their horse, I might keep it,” he said. Morgan is aware that such an outcome will only destroy the credibility of the rehabilitation business. Other trainers have no such qualms: Tony Noonan has a constant stream of horses going through the process of both rehab and pre-training and at stages can have 15 horses under Morgan’s care; the 2007 AJC Australian Derby winner, Fiumicino (B g
2003, Zabeel (NZ)-Latte (NZ), by Maroof (USA)), trained by John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes, who broke down in the 2008 BMW Caulﬁeld Cup, is a recent visitor to Talwood Park. “Sometimes the big worry with some trainers when they get their horses back is to make sure they don’t just start galloping them in the excitement that the horse is ﬁt and well,” the ﬁ xer said. “Horses can get ﬁt in the water-walker but they need to be taken quietly back into track work.” Morgan, as he was when he was that shy, impressionable stable lad in Adelaide, remains thirsty for information about the racing thoroughbreds and what makes them tick. “We have noticed that at certain times of the year, especially in the spring and the summer, that the bone density of the horses lessens while on the water-walker, but not so in the colder months. Weather seems to have a major effect on horses,” he said. After life on the move, Morgan is settled and content as the ﬁxer of horses. The only ‘rushing’ in his life is the familiar surge of horses in the pool at Talwood Park.
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A winning move? Absolutely David Hall comes from a strong racing pedigree and has settled seamlessly into the competitive market of Hong Kong. WORDS STEPHEN HOWELL PHOTOS BRUNO CANNATELLI
avid Hall realises he will always be known as the man who gave up training Makybe Diva after the great mare, in 2003, won the ﬁrst of her three Melbourne Cups, and that any interview with him will refer to it. Probably because of this he goes on the front foot, misinterpreting the question when asked at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong if the move to one of the world’s most competitive racing arenas was the best he had made. “I think a few people have probably asked that question of me in regard to Makybe Diva (B m 1999, Desert King (Ire)-Tugela (USA), by Riverman (USA)), but I’ve got no regrets,” he replies. “It’s pretty hard to predict that she was going to go on and win two more Cups (for Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman in 2004 and 2005). Whether she would have done it under my care, who knows?” Pushed on to the right track – Sha Tin, not Flemington, where he had trained out of the stables now occupied by Danny O’Brien, Hall, 45, grins and says: “As a career move, it’s been very good. Hong Kong has got its advantages and, for me, I’ve got no pressure of any family so it’s pretty easy to pack up and move. And I’m enjoying my time here. And last season was pretty good.” (Hall had 40 winners from 401 starters,
earning his owners $HK42 million (a bit over $A8 million) in stakemoney and ﬁnishing eighth on the trainers’ premiership – to another Australian, John Size. Last May, Hall trained ﬁve winners from six runners at one meeting.) This season, from September 2008-July 2009, is his ﬁfth, and coming into it he had trained 129 winners. “Each year I’ve improved,” he says. “It might be a bit tougher for me this year. I haven’t got many new horses to work with and what we did with them last year it might be a bit tougher to improve again. I’d like to think I would. Realistically, it might be a bit tougher.” At the start of February he had 12 winners and was just outside the top 10, led by John Moore on 42 winners. Hall is a member of the Hall family. His father Joe was a successful trainer in Adelaide and his cousin Greg was a Melbourne Cup-winning jockey. He trained in Adelaide from 1988-93 and
FAMOUS FAMILY: David Hall is a member of the Hall family, one of the best known in Australian racing.
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in Melbourne from 1993-2004. And Makybe Diva wasn’t the only horse to go on to bigger things after Hall put on the polish in Melbourne – Silent Witness (B g 1999, El Moxie (USA)-Jade Tiara, Bureaucracy (NZ)), trained by Hall in his ﬁrst preparation, was sold to Hong Kong before racing and became one of the world’s great sprinters with 17 straight wins; and Karasi (B g 1995, Kahyasi (Ire)-Karamita (Ire), by Shantung (Fr)), who ran fourth in the 2001 Melbourne Cup for Hall, won three Grand Jumps (2005-06-07) in Japan for Eric Musgrove. While references to those that “got away” can grate, they also show that Hall is a man who knows what he wants and goes for it. He says he enjoys the Hong Kong racing scene that usually has two meetings a week – the spacious Sha Tin, in the New Territories about 30 minutes (depending on trafﬁc movement) north-west of the city, on a weekend, and the cramped Happy Valley, tucked under high-rise buildings within walking distance of major hotels on Hong Kong Island, on a Wednesday night. Happy Valley is a night out for horses and trainers. All 1100 racehorses are stabled at Sha Tin; most of the 24 trainers live in apartments on the course, within walking or cycling distance of the guarded barns and the mounting yard and grandstand. Hall says it took him the best part of a year to settle in. “They
ABSOLUTE JOY: Brett Prebble celebrates success on Absolute Champion in the 2006 International Sprint, trainer David Hall’s biggest Hong Kong win.
had three new trainers for the ﬁrst time in one year and I was a late inclusion into that, so I was a bit behind the eight-ball. The ﬁrst year was probably a little bit tough, but we progressed into the second year and got a few more opportunities and continued to get better from thereon in.” A ‘getting to know you’ period for trainer and prospective owners is the norm, although Size came in and won the trainers’ premiership in his ﬁrst season. Now regarded as one of the world’s best, Size has raised the bar for all trainers, many of whom (Hall included) have lost horses to him. “He’s won ﬁve premierships (in seven seasons), so he’s entitled to have the support and the power,” Hall says.
“Against that, you’ve got the likes of John Moore, who’s had years here; and Tony Cruz was a godlike icon as a jockey beforehand. So, to break in to that level, it probably takes a hell of a lot of hard work and a long time to compete with them ... but there are only 24 trainers and the culture here is all about luck; and sometimes doors shut and doors open.” Are they opening, or shutting, for Hall now? “Everybody goes through the same situation here,” he says. “There’s plenty of horses move around, and I was lucky to have beneﬁted with one coming my way with Absolute Champion. He went from a nonwinner to the best sprinter in the world, so I’m not going to have any regrets about another one walking out. That’s just the nature of the place. You have to get used to that.”
‘ The culture here is all about luck; and sometimes doors shut and doors open.
Absolute Champion (B g 2001, Marauding (NZ)-Beauty Belle, by Ideal Planet) gave Hall his best and worst times since he moved to Hong Kong, both linked to the great Australian sprinter Takeover Target (B g 9, Celtic Swing (GB)-Shady Stream, by Archregent (Can)). Hall’s speed machine brilliantly won the Group 1 Cathay Paciﬁc International Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin in December 2006, the race Takeover Target was scratched from only hours before because a banned drug remained in his system – trainer Joe Janiak had taken the punt that it would be gone by race day, despite Hong Kong Jockey
Club tests showing that it was not disappearing quickly enough. It is only conjecture, but Takeover Target, then only a seven-year-old, would have had to have been at his peak to have beaten Hall’s horse, who lived up to his name in that race. “The International Sprint was maybe not quite as exciting as winning the Melbourne Cup,” Hall says. “But it gave me a huge thrill.” Last May, at Kranji in Singapore, the pair clashed for the ﬁrst time and, while Takeover Target added another winning chapter to his remarkable worldwide tale, Absolute Champion had to be put down after he fractured his right front fetlock early in the Krisﬂyer International Sprint (1200m). The race is a Group 1 in Singapore, but does not have international Group 1 status. “Obviously you don’t like to see any horse go in that manner,
especially your best one,” Hall says. “There was a little bit of a cloud over him – he had a foot injury (before the race), which people obviously were thinking had something to do with what happened, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was the fetlock joint. It had nothing to do with (the foot problem). He got a bit of a check, put a foot in a hole ... I don’t know. That was the low point since I moved up here.” Australian Brett Prebble was Absolute Champion’s rider and he does much of Hall’s riding. “Brett actually came the same year,” Hall says. “It obviously wasn’t planned. He applied and got the job, and I applied and missed out on the job, and six weeks later I got the call-up. The timing of it just came together. He’s not actually the stable rider, but obviously we’ve always had a close connection and he’s one of the best riders in the world so I’m happy to use him, although he’s not tied to me.” Prebble, like most jockeys in Hong Kong, is employed by the Jockey Club and rides for many trainers. The club’s ﬁnancial input is another aspect of Hong Kong racing that appeals to Hall because it handles all accounts and, unlike in Australia, trainers don’t have to chase up late and non-payers. All Hall has to worry about is training winners and picking up the trainer’s 9.2 per cent of stakemoney – his share of last season’s purses was about $A800,000, with minimal taxation, and only the top couple in Victoria and New South Wales would get that. (The other 0.8 per cent of Hong Kong’s standard 10 per cent training rate goes to each stable’s Chinese assistant trainer.) Size, 54, has set the benchmark that remains out of the reach of Hall, and most Hong Kong trainers. Asked how he thought Hall was doing, Size said: “He’s settled in OK. He’s a lot younger than I am; he’s still got plenty of time on his hands. I think he’s enjoying Hong Kong immensely ... he’s going very well.”
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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AITKINS PHOTOGRAPHY ADELAIDE
Voice of reason Graham Loch applies a commonsense approach to his role of chief steward in South Australia. WORDS STEPHEN HOWELL
outh Australia’s chief steward Graham Loch said he trained six winners in the backblocks of Queensland, but he was no Bart Cummings. So he stops short of telling a trainer how to train, or a leading jockey such as Paul Gatt how to ride. The steward’s role is not to discuss technique, it’s to examine outcomes. Did a jockey ride in a way to give his/her mount the best opportunity? Was the jockey affected by the trainer’s instructions? Were those instructions appropriate for the horse in question? Technique on one side, outcome on the other. At 60 and after 18 years as a steward in South Australia, Loch’s thorough approach and his ability to articulate, garnered through experiences in and out of racing, have him comfortable and respected when wearing his chief steward’s “hat”. “As stewards we bear responsibility to query rides and tactics,” Loch said. “We have open inquiries and a lot of that information, by necessity, becomes public, but from an educational perspective we do counsel riders on aspects of a race. Circumstances also inﬂuence whether those details get into the public
domain or can occur quietly.” Loch preferred not to be drawn into publicity over his Sydney counterpart Ray Murrihy saying rival jockeys would eat Kerrin McEvoy alive as he was settling into NSW riding if he let them dictate where he positioned his mounts; but it is obvious Adelaide’s boss prefers a measured approach in the face of punter pressure. “When addressing riders in that manner, though, we should not lose sight of the need for transparency and fairness,” Loch said. Loch recalled cautioning a young jockey and trainer several years ago that they were “not fooling anyone ﬂ apping elbows up and down” to try to show the jockey was working hard getting to the line. “It didn’t require further action,” he said. Simple common sense can ease the burden on what has become an increasingly complex job. “The on-track responsibilities must remain our priority for the sake of the integrity of the industry and its racing product,” Loch said. “But, additionally, the (steward’s) portfolio includes licensing, industry training, including the apprentice program, and deputy registrar of racehorses, as well as various industry liaison and advisory roles. Des Gleeson (Victoria’s
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CORRECT WEIGHT: Graham Loch gives Kate Dyson the ‘all clear’ when she weighs in after an Adelaide race.
recently retired chief steward) highlighted the extra load when he said, ‘If we only had to go to the races it’d be a great job, but all the other bull….!’” Loch’s best working days are when all riders and horses get around safely and he especially enjoys the high-proﬁle meetings with visiting competitors. On the other hand, he was speciﬁc about his worst experience: “At Cheltenham on 20 September, 2003, when Cheree Buchiw suffered her injury. I’m sure there were
‘ The on-track
responsibilities must remain our priority for the sake of the integrity of the industry.
other people affected by that experience.” (Buchiw had a leg amputated below the knee after a fall.) Until 1991 Loch’s “real job” was in insurance, but he said he had a broad racing education in Queensland, including time as a bookmaker’s clerk, a hobby trainer and vice-president of the Central Warrego Race Club, when Peter Moody and Brett Cavanough, now successful trainers, were “young guys eager to learn more about racing”. “My ﬁrst mentor, Kevin Connor, who was the chief steward in Rockhampton in the 1970s, encouraged me to be involved on a part-time basis as a steward,” Loch said. “Remarkably, he mentored four stewards who progressed to metropolitan panels. “I’d like to think that, with the support of my fellow stewards and staff, I continue to apply Kevin’s approach. He had a saying: ‘There’s a reason for everything.’ There usually is.”